Overview Of The Cash Bail System
After a person is arrested, police (and later the courts) set bail. Bail is an amount of money that an arrested person can give to the police to be released. If the person does not have the money, he will stay in jail or he can hire a bail bondsman (see below). The release is only until the criminal case concludes. Once the criminal case is concluded, the bail is refunded to the arrested person (if paid in full). If the criminal case concluded with a conviction that involves jail time, the bail is returned but the person goes back to jail to complete his jail sentence.
EXAMPLE: John is arrested for a DUI with an accident. Police decide (sets) the bail is (at) $15,000.00. John can give $15,000 to the police and go home until his court date. In court, John decides to go to trial and wins his case. John walks out of court a free man and the police returns his $15,000 back to him.
What is A Bail Bondsman
A bail bondsman is a business that will promise to police that you will show up to court and the police will let you go. The bail bondsman will take between 7% to 10% of the amount of bond for his service. People use bail bondsman when they do not have the entire money to post the bond. In the above example, if you do not have the $15,000 to give to the police, you would pay $1,500.00 to the bail bondsman and go free. The difference between putting the money yourself and hiring a bail bondsman is that you do get your money back if you give the entire $15,000 directly to the police and you do not get your money back if hire the bail bondsman for $1,500.00. The $1,500 in the above example is called “a premium” and is the money the bail bondsman makes for offering his services.
EXAMPLE: John is arrested for a DUI and the police set the bail at $25,000. John does not have $25,000 cash to give the police so he hires a bail-bonds for 8% of the total amount (with 5% downpayment) to get out of jail right away. John pays $2,000 to the bail bondsman. The police let John go and give him a “notice to appear” in court in 2 months. Los Angeles City Attorney Office files a DUI in Los Angeles but John hires Los Angeles DUI defense attorney and wins his case 6 months later. John does not get his $2,000 that he paid to the bondsman back because he did not post the bail himself, instead, he paid $2,000 to the bail bondsman who posted the $25,000 bail.
How Bail Is Determined In Los Angeles Criminal Cases
Upon arrest, the police set the bail based on the most serious crime that the person is arrested for. Each crime has its own amount of bail as determined by the courts in a “bail schedule”. Here is misdemeanor bail scheduled for Los Angeles (click here) and felony (click here).
Because the police do not add bails for several crimes and instead use only the most serious charge to set bail, the bail amount often will change on the first court date.
EXAMPLE: John gets arrested for a DUI in Los Angles with an accident and he has a prior DUI. The police set the bail at $25,000. However, John had a minor child with him in the car, a violation of the California Penal Code section 273(a)
“Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years”.
EXAMPLE CONTINUES: Because police do not add charges in setting bail, the bail with the police is $25,000 which allows Jonh to bail out by hiring a bail bondsman for $2,000. However, when the case goes to court, Los Angles City Attorney files the Child Endangerment charge under California Penal Code 273(a) that increases the total bail to $40,000. The court will take John back to jail until he posts the additional $15,000 or hires a bondsman for the remainder of the money (and pays an additional $1,200 to the bail bondsman).
Humphrey: a 2017 Bail Criminal Case
In 2017 in San Francisco, Kenneth Humphrey was arrested for stealing $7 from his neighbor. Mr. Humphrey was charged with a robbery and his bail was set at $600,000. The high amount of bail was due to Humphrey’s previous record. At a bail hearing, his bail was reduced to $350,000 but Humphrey could not post this bail because he could not afford $30,000 in the bail bondsman premium. He was a poor man and was in custody because of that. Humphrey appealed and the Court of Appeals held “bail can only be used when there is no less restrictive way of ensuring the defendant future court appearances and cannot be set without considering a defendant’s ability to pay“. The court sent Humphrey’s criminal case back for another bail hearing and Humphrey was released without bail.
Despite Humphrey’s Court of Appeals ruling, most Los Angeles Criminal Court Judges followed the bail schedule by deciding that “there is no less restrictive way of ensuring the defendant future court appearances”. Then, Humphrey’s case was taken by the Supreme Court who will issue a ruling within 90 days to decide once and for all if the bail should be abolished in California. This issue came up twice in the last few years and both times the voters rejected abolishing the cash bail system. Yet, it appears that the bail schedules will be abolished and instead the amount of bail will be determined by judges individually based on the defendant’s ability to pay. A rich person’s bail might be a lot higher than a poor person’s bail. Steve Jobs’s bail for a minor crime might be millions of dollars and a poor person will go free while his criminal case is pending. This ruling will jeopardize equal protection – but we will see soon how the court decides.
New Los Angles District Attorney Policy Regarding Cash Bail
On December 7, 2020, George Gascon was sworn in as a District Attorney for Los Angeles County. Immediately upon swearing-in, he introduced several special directives that provide new instructions to his deputies and change the policy and operating procedure of his office. For example, prior strikes and most special allegations (such as GBI under PC 12022.7 and use of a gun under PC 12022.53) will not be filed in most Los Angeles criminal cases. Special Directive 20-06 specifically addresses the pretrial release policy.
Under Special Directive, 20-06 George Gascon specifically attacks the unfairness of the Cash Bail system. His position is that cash bail is unfair and jails people who are unable to afford the bail while allows the rich individuals to remain free.
Under Special Directive 20-06, Gascon instructed that all Los Angeles District Attorneys do not ask for bail on any misdemeanors or any felonies that are not serious or violent.
If cash bail is requested by the Los Angeles District Attorney, it should be based on the defendant’s ability to pay. A poor person’s bail will be lower.
Q and A:
Q: WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOT SHOW UP TO COURT
A: THE COURT WILL ISSUE A BENCH WARRANT. THE AMOUNT OF THE WARRANT WILL BE BASED ON THE BAIL SCHEDULE. WHEN A BENCH WARRANT IS ISSUED, POLICE CAN GO TO YOUR HOME TO ARREST YOU. IF STOPPED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT DURING A TRAFIC STOP OR WHEN GOING THROUGH SECURITY AT THE AIRPORT, YOU CAN BE TAKEN INTO CUSTODY.
Q: HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO SEE A JUDGE IF I CANNOT AFORD BAIL?
A: UNDER THE CURRENT LAW, THE POLICE HAVE TO TAKE YOU TO SEE A JUDGE WITHIN 48 HOURS OF ARREST (NOT INCLUDING THE WEEKEND). THUS AN ARREST ON FRIDAY NIGHT MIGHT RESULT IN COURT ON WEDNESDAY.
Having an experienced Los Angeles criminal attorney represent you will help you stay out of jail. Please call our office so that we can answer specific questions as they related to bail. Bail companies have to offer a discount if you are represented by a private attorney.
If your loved one is arrested, call us (818) 921 7744 for a free consultation.
We will gladly explain to you your rights and will help get him or her out of jail.
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