In August 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10, which would have eliminated California’s cash bail system and replaced it with a pre-trial assessment program. It effectively eliminated the use of cash to secure release from jail prior to trial.
Less than five months later, on Wednesday, Jan. 16, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that all of SB 10 will be put before state voters as a referendum, which has qualified for the state’s November 2020 ballot.
Registered California voters will have the opportunity to approve or to reject the continuation of the current cash bail system.
Qualification for the ballot requires 365,880 signatures. As of Jan. 16, the Secretary of State’s office estimated that valid signatures collected exceeded 402,500.
SB 10 would have become effective Oct. 1, 2019. Instead, this referendum places all of SB 10 before the voters. It will become law only if approved by a majority of the voters in the 2020 presidential election. However, if a majority votes against the referendum, the cash bail system remains in place.
Under SB 10, individuals arrested for most misdemeanors would be booked and released without going into custody.
For an individual who is determined to be at low risk to public safety and failure to appear in court, the release would be the least restrictive and no monetary conditions (bail) will be applied.
Some people would not be released under any conditions. This would include someone assessed as a high risk in the current case. This individual would not be eligible for the pre-trial assessment.
Neither an arrest requiring sex offender registration, nor serious or violent felony arrests for physical violence or great bodily injury would be eligible for release. Being armed or using a deadly weapon also would preclude assessment for release.
Several of the other conditions that would prevent release include some circumstances when arrested for driving under the influence, three or more failures to appear in court within the past 12 months, awaiting trial or sentencing in another case, or conviction of a serious or violent felony within the past five years.
The local superior courts will be responsible for conducting the pre-arraignment review and making the release decisions.