Fresno County Sheriff and bondsmen oppose plan to end cash bail

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California could soon do away with its cash bail system, which requires that jailed suspects provide money to be released from custody.

Under Senate Bill 10, instead of posting bail, suspects will have to be quickly assessed by probation officers, or the courts to determine if they can be released. Action News Legal analyst Tony Capozzi explains, "It is an entirely new procedure. Pretty much it is whether someone is a flight risk or a danger to the community. If the defendant is either one of those two, odds are he's not going to get out."

Advocates say the practice will end the practice of keeping people in jail just because they are too broke to afford bail. Law enforcement fears it will keep suspects from being accountable. Governor Jerry Brown has said he will sign the bill if it comes to his desk.

The big losers in the legislation are bail bond companies. We spoke to Albert Ramirez, the owner of a Fresno bail bond company that his father started 50 years ago about the impact.

"It will put us out of business as of October of 2019. We'll have to lay off all of our employees, we have ten employees, as will all the bail agents in California."

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims opposes the change. She says being forced to put up bail money is a powerful incentive for a suspect to return to court.

"Well, of all of the reasons why people get released from jail when they bail, they are the most likely to show up in court, so the unintended consequences I fear is that we will have more people not showing up to court."

Capozzi says not giving a suspect the opportunity to get out on bail could be illegal. That is because the California State Constitution says, "Everyone is entitled to bail, with sufficient surety. Well, does this meet that standard? It remains to be seen."

The ACLU and other groups which initially supported the no cash bail measure don't support the assessment scheme. They fear it could end up keeping more people locked up.

Ramirez says getting the courts to lower the mandatory bail amounts rather than eliminate them might be a better solution.

"So, instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, why not fix the system we've had in California for 150 years."
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