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California Rule: Considering a Person’s Ability to Pay Bail

Roth Legal, A Professional Law Corporation July 17, 2023

Dollar Banknotes, Handcuffs and Judge Gavel on Wood TableAmerica’s cash bail system has been under serious criticism for years. Lawmakers around the country have pushed for the reform of the system because they feel it unfairly benefits wealthy individuals who have the ability to pay bail to be released from jail. Low-income individuals, on the other hand, must either work with a bail bond company or stay in jail while waiting for trial.  

After many years of debate, California became the first state to eliminate cash bail for defendants who cannot pay it. If you are facing criminal charges, you need to understand California’s ever-changing laws regarding cash bail. Roth Legal, A Professional Law Corporation represents people who await trial in jail. Attorney Ryan Roth can fight for your best interests to protect your freedom and future. With an office in Modesto, California, the law firm serves Merced, Manteca, Stockton, and other parts of California.  

Bail in California 

People accused of crimes in California have three ways to post bail: 

  • cash 

  • bail bond 

  • property bond 

In most cases, posting bail means either having the required amount of cash on hand or posting a cashier’s check for the required amount. The problem with cash bail is that the amount can range from $10,000 to $100,000, making it a viable option only for wealthy Californians. Once cash bail is paid, the amount will be returned if you attend all of your court appearances. Failure to appear in court will result in the forfeiture of bail.  

What the New Ruling Means 

In 2021, the California Supreme Court ruled to eliminate cash bail if defendants cannot afford to pay. The court’s ruling stated that it was unconstitutional to keep people jailed simply because they had no money to meet bail requirements. It means that the defendant’s ability to pay bail is evaluated when determining whether cash bail is appropriate.  

The ruling could affect tens of thousands of people sent to California’s jails while awaiting trial every year. Being incarcerated for days, weeks, or even months after the arrest jeopardizes a person’s job and family life. In addition, people held in jails while awaiting trial often complain about inhumane conditions.  

Is There a National Shift Away From Cash Bail? 

After California’s ruling, other states have also moved to eliminate cash bail, which indicates a national shift away from cash bail amid growing criticism that people are jailed solely because they cannot afford to pay, while those who can pay walk free. While supporters of the cash bail reform argue that the cash bail system creates inequalities for poorer individuals and erodes public trust, opponents of the reform argue that eliminating cash bail would make communities less safe.   

Allowing defendants who were arrested to be released from jail by paying money has been a widely debated topic for decades. In recent years, it has turned into a topic of contention among political parties. While Republicans argue that the cash bail system keeps dangerous people off the streets, Democrats push to eliminate cash bail because they believe it violates people’s civil rights.  

On January 1, 2023, Illinois became the first state to eliminate cash bail completely. The state allows defendants to leave jail while awaiting trial without having to pay any amount of money. Other states may follow suit in the coming months and years. There is no proof that those released from jail while awaiting trial are more likely to commit crimes and get re-arrested, which is why the argument that eliminating cash bail would make communities less safe may not be valid.  

Get Answers Today 

If you or your loved one is currently in jail while awaiting trial, you need to understand California’s rules regarding cash bail. Attorney Ryan Roth can fight for your release from jail and ensure that you are treated fairly during the criminal justice process. Reach out to Roth Legal, A Professional Law Corporation to set up a free consultation and discuss your options.