Changes in California’s Bail System

In the spring of 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the California courts introduced zero bail to keep jail populations manageable. Fear of overcrowding and spreading the virus were the main reasons behind this effort. As of May 2022, the zero-bail system was discontinued. It is evident that California is on top of needs within the state and can adjust as conditions change. The bail system experiences many changes in California, and it is something that affects all residents.

Bringing Clarity to California’s Current Bail Policies

Bail can impact many more people than the defendant. Families, friends, and employers may all experience changes to California’s bail system. If you or someone you know is charged with a crime, having clarity about the current laws around bail can be helpful. As these laws change, speaking with a professional attorney can help provide further clarification. Often, defense lawyers can offer free insight into current bail laws, and it is wise to check because there are always some bail reforms in the pipeline in California.

California’s Current Bail System

Following an arrest, the accused is booked on the charges. The local bail schedule determines a bail value associated with each specific crime for which someone is charged. Typically, the local jail adds up the values and requires that the total amount be paid before release. However, in California, the Supreme Court ruled that the justice system should not further punish those unable to post bail.

Inability to Make Full Bail Amount

A small minority of arrested people have access to liquid cash that can be used to post bail. There are a few options when looking to make bail. Anyone in jail is eager to get out, and once bail is posted, the accused will be released within a few hours.

Friends and Family Often Provide help to Meet Bail Amounts

The accused may call on friends or family to help. Numerous bail bond companies are more than happy to provide the necessary bail amount with collateral. Interestingly, some bail bond companies charge less when a qualified criminal defense attorney represents the defendant.

Payment Options for Bail in California

Personal checks can be used for smaller bail amounts, but more significant totals must be paid by cashier's check or money orders.

Property may be used as collateral in some cases, but there are details to this process that are best handled by a legal representative due to its complexity and guidelines.

No Bail Payment

In some cases, the accused may choose not to make bail or cannot come up with the necessary money. In these cases, there are three days in which the District Attorney must formally file charges in court. If no charges have been filed in those three days, the defendant must be released.

Missing Court Date After Bail Can Make Things Worse

Some people, after posting bail, are so thrilled to be free that they forget their court date or do not take showing up for the court date seriously. However, missing the scheduled court date means the money posted for bail goes to court, and a warrant will be out for your arrest. Even bench warrants can be devastating and make things much worse for someone trying to get their life back after an arrest. Additionally, if anyone helped come up with the bail bond company, a missed court date means the bail bond company is going after whoever put down collateral. This is a terrible thing when it happens.

A Reasonable Excuse

There are circumstances when someone scheduled to appear in court is legitimately unable to make the court appearance. In these cases, it is best to have an attorney present the excuse to the court with supportive evidence on your behalf. If things have been missed or become more complicated, having a professional attorney by your side ensures the best possible outcome.

Bail Payback

After the trial, the bail money is returned to the bail company. However, if a conviction occurs, any cash or personal check money will be applied towards restitution and not returned. In any sentence, there are fines, and that is where the bail money will be applied. So, some question if it is worth it to come up with cash or if it is better to use a reputable bail bonds company. It is always wise to speak with a professional attorney and determine the best approach for your situation. If you are in San Diego County and want to talk to a criminal defense attorney with more than thirty years of helping clients in the area, contact the Law Office of Joni K. Eisenstein for a free consultation.

Overall, the bail system still looks mostly like it always has. The temporary laws that help California in times of crisis should be an encouragement to those facing charges for crimes in San Diego and needing to make bail.

If you are on the fence about hiring a defense attorney, stop thinking about it, and do it now

Hiring a criminal defense attorney like Joni Eisenstein can help you go from a place of uncertainty to freedom.