The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that judges must consider suspects’ ability to pay when they set bail. The ruling essentially requires defendants be freed unless they are deemed too dangerous to be released awaiting trial.
“The common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional,” Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar wrote in the Court’s opinion.
“Other conditions of release — such as electronic monitoring, regular check-ins with a pretrial case manager, community housing or shelter, and drug and alcohol treatment,” the ruling says. “The court must consider the arrestee’s ability to pay the stated amount of bail —and may not effectively detain the arrestee ‘solely because.'”
“When people can obtain their release, they almost always do so,” the ruling states. “The disadvantages to remaining incarcerated pending resolution of criminal charges are immense and profound.”
Cuéllar added that, “It is one thing to decide that a person should be charged with a crime, but quite another to determine, under our constitutional system, that the person merits detention pending trial on that charge.”
Jennifer Friedman, California Public Defenders Association President, said that the court “wrongly concluded in deciding issues of release that they may presume the person committed the charged offense and also failed to clearly describe the limited category of individuals who may be detained.”
56% of voters in California were against Proposition 25, the elimination of the cash bail system when it was on the ballot in November. The court’s ruling allows cash bail, so long as defendants can afford it.