LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County returned to its COVID-era Emergency Bail Schedule Wednesday, after a Superior Court judge ruled its cash bail system unconstitutional. The injunction by Judge Lawrence Riff means cash bail for non-violent, non-serious felonies is now $0.
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. Riff wrote the county’s current bail system jails tens of thousands of people solely because they are poor and can’t afford bail.
The injunction is the latest victory by Civil Rights Corps, a national civil rights organization challenging cash bail across the country.
“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. It’s literally just based on how much money you have,” said lawyer Salil Dudani who argued the case.
LA County Sheriff Robert Luna and LA Police Department Chief Michel Moore both declined to testify in support of the current cash bail system.
“It is clear the defendants do not dispute plaintiffs’ principal factual and legal points,” Riff wrote.
Without pushback from county officials, Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall said the judge only had the evidence provided by Civil Rights Corps.
“It’s 100% ‘catch and release,’” Siddall said. “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.”
Riff found the evidence showed cash bail does not increase public safety, writing “that it is highly likely that the opposite is true: secured money bail regimes are associated with increased crime.”
Salil said that’s because a few days behind bars are so destabilizing.
“Many people lose their jobs because they can’t show up to work,” Salil said. “Can you imagine something worse for a person’s mental health symptoms than being put in a dangerous jail and away from access to their prescription medication?”
The parties will be back in court on July 10 to decide what to use moving forward. Civil Rights Corps will be pushing to a text messaging system to remind the accused of their court dates and diversion programs.