As crime in the City of Angels continues to soar, Los Angeles County has brought back its controversial zero-bail policy.
Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff ruled on Wednesday that the city’s cash bail system is unconstitutional. Under the injunction, those suspected of committing non-violent, non-serious felonies will now be released without having to front a cash guarantee that they will return to court.
“The ruling only impacts the time between when someone is booked and when they first appear before a judge to be arraigned, typically about two to five days,” according to Spectrum News 1. “Riff wrote the county’s current bail system jails tens of thousands of people solely because they are poor and can’t afford bail.”
NEW: Bail for non-violent, non-serious crime is now $0 in Los Angeles, after a judge ruled the county’s cash bail system is likely unconstitutional.
— Kate Cagle (@KateCagle) May 26, 2023
Civil Rights Corps — a “non-profit organization dedicated to challenging systemic injustice in the United States’ legal system” — has been challenging the practice of cash bail across the nation.
According to the group’s website, the U.S. legal system is one “that is built on white supremacy and economic inequality.”
Lawyer Salil Dudani argued the case in Los Angeles.
“The current system with money bail does not jail people because they are dangerous. It does not jail people because they are a flight risk,” Dudani said. “It’s literally just based on how much money you have.”
Both LA County Sheriff Robert Luna and LA Police Department Chief Michel Moore declined to testify, leaving the judge, according to Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall, with only the evidence presented by Civil Rights Corps to consider.
“It’s 100% ‘catch and release,'” Siddall said, according to Spectrum. “That’s basically going to be the policy of Los Angeles County for lower-level felonies and most misdemeanors. You do a smash-and-grab, you’re going to be released in time to do a second one on the same day.”
Spectrum News anchor Cate Kagle reported on Twitter, “I sat for closing arguments in this case and Judge Riff expressed doubt LA County lawyers will propose a new system to replace the bail schedule. Without testimony from county leaders, Civil Rights Corps is driving the conversation in court.”
I sat for closing arguments in this case and Judge Riff expressed doubt LA County lawyers will propose a new system to replace the bail schedule. Without testimony from county leaders, Civil Rights Corps is driving the conversation in court.
— Kate Cagle (@KateCagle) May 26, 2023
“Judge [Lawrence Riff] made the point of saying that he implored California officials like the sheriff, the chief of police, the district attorney, the city attorney. He implored them to testify to explain why he shouldn’t issue this order,” Los Angeles County Deputy DA John McKinney told Fox 11. “And he was surprised when no one stood up to challenge it.”
With the policy now in place, McKinney said, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) will no longer be detaining suspects over such crimes as theft, shoplifting, drug use, vandalism, batteries, and a host of other nonviolent crimes.
Former LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the outlet that he would have challenged Riff’s ruling.
“The biggest impact actually is not going to be on the sheriff’s department, LAPD. It’s going to be on the other 45 municipalities that have their own police departments, because now they carry the burden of having to deliver their own inmates to court until the arraignment before they can go into the custody of the sheriff,” Villanueva said. “That’s going to be the biggest impact.”
Those Angelinos who now think they can blow off court appearances should, however, think twice.
“Under this new bail system, there are no second chances,” Fox 11 reports. “So if a person violates the bail schedule, they are put back on a cash bail system.”
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