Detaining People Who Can't Afford Bail Is Unconstitutional, California High Court Rules

Written by on March 25, 2021

The California Supreme Courtroom issued a serious ruling Thursday figuring out that the state’s unilateral coverage of detaining folks just because they can’t afford bail is unconstitutional. 

The unanimous resolution implies that judges within the state should think about a defendant’s capacity to pay once they set bail. If they can’t pay, and the decide doesn’t imagine them to pose a risk to society if launched, the decide might not preserve them behind bars in pretrial detention. 

“Whether or not an accused particular person is detained pending trial typically doesn’t depend upon a cautious, individualized dedication of the necessity to shield public security, however merely ― as one decide observes ― the accused’s capacity to submit the sum offered in a county’s uniform bail schedule,” Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar wrote within the courtroom’s opinion.

“The frequent follow of conditioning freedom solely on whether or not an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional,” they concluded. 

The courtroom took on the case after a San Francisco man, Kenneth Humphrey, challenged the $600,000 bail a decide assigned him in 2017 after he was accused of robbing a neighbor of $5 and a bottle of cologne. The theft case has but to be settled.

“I’m happy different folks may have the identical alternatives I needed to change their lives and they won’t have to attend in jail for years as a result of they’re too poor to pay bail,” he stated in a press release Thursday by the San Francisco public defender’s workplace.

Public defender Mano Raju known as the choice “historic” and applauded Humphrey for his braveness to problem the system

“Mr. Humphrey’s success whereas out of custody reveals what can occur after we spend money on folks, not cages, and my workplace is dedicated to persevering with to push for modifications that can lead to extra equity and fairness for all Californians,” Raju stated in a press release. 

Thursday’s ruling comes 4 months after Californians voted towards a statewide proposition to utterly eradicate money bail. Most vocal criticism of the laws got here from progressive teams that anxious the system that will substitute money bail — utilizing risk-assessment instruments and giving judges extra discretion — would possibly exacerbate racism and different inequities when it comes to who’s held in pretrial detention.


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