Controversial zero-bail policy takes effect in L.A. County

The new zero-bail policy takes effect in L.A. County on Saturday, despite the objections of many law enforcement and civic leaders who say the policy will undermine efforts to fight crime. 

The policy allows some criminal suspects accused of non-violent or non-serious crimes to be cited and released when they would have previously been held on bond. 

A decision was made in July by the Los Angeles County Superior Court to institute the system, arguing that cash bail discriminates against minorities and the poor.

In a lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court, a dozen cities are seeking to overturn the policy.

The 12 communities listed in the suit are: 

  • Arcadia 
  • Artesia 
  • Covina 
  • Downey 
  • Glendora 
  • Industry 
  • Lakewood 
  • La Verne 
  • Palmdale 
  • Santa Fe Springs 
  • Vernon
  • Whittier 

“Our big hope would be to overturn the zero-bail policy or at least put a pause on it so that we have the ability to take a harder look at it and find out whether or not this is the right thing to do,” said Glendora Mayor Gary Boyer. 

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore also expressed concern about the new program.

“Law enforcement is averse to the list of ‘book and release’ offenses because that approach offers little to no deterrence to those involved in a range of serious criminal offenses,” Moore said on social media. “We are asking the court to not release individuals who pose risks to the community’s safety, including those with repeated instances of prior serious offenses.” 

Yolo County, California District Attorney Jeff Reisig blasted the policy on X, formerly known as Twitter, Sunday morning.

“They ignored the only thorough comparative study in CA on Zero Bail and its impact on statewide crime. My county,” Reisig said. “What our 2023 study found was frightening: 163% more crime + 200% more violent crime committed in CA by arrestees released from jail on Zero Bail.”

Not everyone is against the new ordinance, however. 

“Pre-trial release should not depend on a person’s risk to public safety…our justice system is not for sale,” L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell said. “We cannot conflate bail with accountability. Our community deserves accountability that matches the offense and investments in community interventions that help prevent crime from happening.” 

“A person’s ability to pay a large sum of money should not be the determining factor in deciding whether that person, who is presumed innocent, stays in jail before trial or is released,” said Presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner said in her decision. 

Individuals arrested for more serious crimes will go before a magistrate who will determine alternative “appropriate non-financial pre-arraignment release terms,” the L.A. County Superior Court release said. 

Anyone charged with capital offenses or felonies that are eligible for the death penalty will not qualify for the pre-arraignment release. 

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