LOS ANGELES (KABC) — A zero-bail policy will soon go into effect in Los Angeles County.
It will abolish the existing cash bail system for all but the most serious crimes.
Police officers and some residents are concerned about the impact the new policy will have on crime.
It will represent a major change in the way the court system deals with arrested people and how long they remain in custody. Zero bail applies to misdemeanors and certain non-violent crimes.
“This change affects only a tiny portion of the pretrial system,” said Jeff Stein of the Civil Rights Corps.
“It’s about the time between a person’s arrest and their appearance before a judge in LA. This can take up to five days.”
Under the new system, officers have three options for releasing a suspect. With one of these options, the suspect could be brought in and released immediately.
There are concerns about how this will all work.
The new bail regulations are due to come into force on October 1st.
However, the city of Whittier on Friday announced a lawsuit seeking to block the policy, saying it was supported by 11 other cities in L.A. County.
The city is seeking an injunction to delay implementation of the new bail plan, saying it has support from Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs and Vernon.
“This zero bail plan is just another policy that makes 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 sheriff said about 20% of those released without bail are rearrested. He believes that victims must have a voice.
“Our communities have not been afraid to tell us 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 particularly for those who are repeat offenders. “When they see or hear that people are released immediately after an arrest, it negatively impacts their trust in our criminal justice system,” Luna said.
This sentiment was echoed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who asked, “How can we make sure that criminals out there don’t feel like there are no consequences for the actions they take?”
The sheriff’s department says the new policy would only affect people arrested for misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes. People arrested for sexual offenses, domestic violence and weapons offenses are exempt from the zero bail policy. Some suspects would have to be questioned immediately before a judge.
The question is whether there are enough staff to handle the extra work.
“What we don’t want to see is a backlog of presumably innocent people sitting in prison just because they can’t see the judge,” says Stein. “We therefore hope that the court has sufficient staff for this.”