Referendum to reverse bail decision qualifies for ballot

A suspected drunk driver lays handcuffed on the pavement near a crashed Nissan Sentra on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Austin Dave/The Signal
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When Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that made California the first state to abolish its cash bail system, bail agencies weren’t pleased. Now they’re racing against the clock to try to overturn the bill that would put them out of jobs.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Monday that supporters of a referendum to repeal the bill have been authorized to collect petition signatures until November, putting the bill’s fate in the hands of California’s voters.

Before the law can take effect, opponents have until Nov. 26 to overturn it. If 365,880 registered voters sign the petition, the referendum will qualify for the 2020 ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s office.  

The cash bail law Brown signed into law Aug. 28 replaces the money bail system with a system for pretrial release from jail. It would put a stronger burden on probation agencies to keep track of criminal court appearances, and it’s expected to put local bail bond agencies, like SCV Bail Bonds, out of business.

SCV Bail Bonds operators Robin Sandoval-March and Nuri March said the bill would rob the system of the accountability clients have to show up to court, enforced by bondsmen they’ve paid.

”Private citizens of California don’t even know what’s going on with this system,” Sandoval-March said Tuesday. “They know after the fact, after Brown signed this law, so we’re anxious as the bail industry to get signatures to make sure it’s voted on for the 2020 election.”

Under the new rules, criminals would not be favored based on their ability to pay bail. Instead, the state would replace bail with “risk assessments” of individuals and nonmonetary conditions of release. Counties would establish local agencies to evaluate any individual arrested on felony charges on their likelihood of returning for court hearings and their chances of re-arrest.

Kerri Webb, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, said the passage of the newly signed Senate Bill 10 would lead to a dramatic increase in the number of defendants requiring a pretrial risk assessment and pretrial supervision services.

According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, the law could cost anywhere from $100 million to $200 million annually.

“We feel confident that people will want to sign, once they are educated on how the bail system works,” Sandoval-March said. “We work on trying to educate people all the time and we’ve released some blogs and articles.”

In a statement, Brown declared the new law, when it goes into effect October 2019, would ensure that the poor and rich would be treated equally when accused of crimes.

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