Los Angeles County prepares for zero bail in the court system

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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Los Angeles County prepares for zero bail in the court system
Los Angeles County prepares for zero bail in the court system

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A zero-bail policy is about to go into effect in Los Angeles County.

It will eliminate the existing cash bail system for all but the most serious of crimes.

Law enforcement officials and some residents are concerned about how the new policy will impact crime.

It will be a major change in how the court system deals with people who are arrested and how long they stay in custody. The zero bail will apply to misdemeanors and specific non-violent felonies.

"This change just applies to a tiny segment of the pretrial system," says Jeff Stein from Civil Rights Corps.

"It's just about that window between when a person is arrested and when they see a judge in LA. That can last up to five days."

Under the new system, officers will have three options for a suspect's release. With one of those options the suspect could be cited and released immediately.

There are concerns about how all of this will work.

The new bail policy is scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1.

However, on Friday the city of Whittier, saying it is backed by 11 other cities in LA County, announced a lawsuit designed to block the policy.

The city is seeking an injunction to postpone implementation of the new bail schedule, and says it is backed by Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs and Vernon.

"This zero-bail schedule is just another policy that leaves us less safe than we should be," Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

At a recent county Board of Supervisors meeting, the county's sheriff said approximately 20% of those released with zero bail get re-arrested. He feels victims need to have a voice.

"Our communities have been not shy about telling us about how nervous they are about this change," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.

"They are concerned about the lack of consequences for those who commit crimes and specifically those who are repeat offenders. When they see or hear about people being released immediately after an arrest, it negatively impacts his or her confidence in our criminal-justice system," Luna said.

That sentiment was echoed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger who asked "How are we going to make sure that criminals out there don't feel there are no consequences to the actions they take?"

The sheriff's department says the new policy would only affect people arrested for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Those arrested for sexual offenses, domestic violence and offenses involving weapons will be exempt from the zero-bail policy. Some suspects would need to get immediate hearings in front of a magistrate.

The question is whether there will be enough personnel to deal with the additional work.

"What we don't want to see is a backlog of presumptive innocent people sitting in jail just because they can't see the magistrate," Stein says. "So we hope that the court does have adequate staffing for that."