The California Judicial Council voted 17-2 Wednesday to rescind, effective June 20, a temporary COVID-19 policy that set bail for lower-level crimes at $0.
“The Judicial Council’s action better reflects the current needs of our state, which has different health concerns and restrictions county-to-county based on the threat posed by COVID-19,” said Justice Marsha Slough.
Since the enactment of $0 bail, police agencies throughout California have arrested and then re-arrested suspects — sometimes just a few hours later — freed on $0 bail.
To lower the jail population during the pandemic, the state set bail at $0 for misdemeanors and so-called low-level felonies.
The $0 bail policy came about because county jails were considered COVID-19 vectors that endangered inmates, law enforcement, court staff, and the public.
As with a regular bail schedule, prosecutors could petition a judge to raise or deny bail if there was a concern for public safety.
Those accused of violent felonies, offenses requiring sex offender registration, domestic violence, stalking, or driving under the influence were not eligible for $0 bail.
“We urge local courts to continue to use the emergency COVID-19 bail schedules where necessary to protect the health of the community, the courts, and the incarcerated,” said Slough, a Judicial Council member and chair of the Executive and Planning Committee.
Evictions & Foreclosures Vote Delayed
The Judicial Council also passed emergency rules pausing evictions and judicial foreclosures as most courts were unable to handle non-urgent civil matters due to COVID-19.
The council was set to vote to end those rules Wednesday, but Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye suspended the vote.
“After discussions with the governor, legislative leaders, and Judicial Council members — as well as hearing from residents with many different viewpoints — I have suspended for the time being the vote on the emergency rules dealing with evictions and judicial foreclosures. I believe the executive and legislative branches will need more time to sort through various policy proposals,” Cantil-Sakauye said.
Valley $0 Bail Cases
Merced police arrested a man for stealing a car. He was cited out. An hour later, they got a call for a stolen vehicle and cited him again. Then, a couple of hours later, they got a report of the same man stealing yet another car.
At the Fresno County Jail, there were 751 zero bail releases from April 9 through May 18. During that time frame, there were 100 re-bookings, which is a recidivism rate of 13.5%.
In Clovis, a recent high-profile case involved teenagers arrested on charges of stealing about $14,000 in Nike clothing since May 1 in five trips to Dick’s Sporting Goods in Clovis. Two of them mocked police and law enforcement supporters on the Clovis PD Facebook page after their $0 bail release.