Elimination of Cash Bail in DUI Cases

The new law, set forth in Senate Bill 10, is set to go into effect on October 1, 2019.  The underlying idea appears to be fairness in deciding who gets released from custody after being arrested. It deals in part with the Elimination of Cash Bail in DUI Cases. Advocates believe that too many poor remain in custody because they can’t afford to bail out. Whether or not this new approach actually works the way they believe, we’ll have to wait and see.  It may just leave more working people in jail, that then become poor after losing their jobs.  Many of these are people that could have afforded bail under the present system and could have seen their cases through to the end with far less difficulty.

Just as different counties have different tolerances for DUI cases, so do judges.  Although some commentaries on the subject say that most individuals arrested for misdemeanors would be released within 12 hours without assessment, I have my doubts.  As an example of how different counties can be, Sacramento County releases most individuals on their own recognizance if the arrest is for a 1st, 2nd or 3rd offense DUI and gives them a date to appear about three weeks later.  The surrounding counties of Placer, Yolo and El Dorado require varying amounts of bail in almost every instance.  The Elimination of Cash bail will leave many people in custody when they could otherwise be released upon posting a bond that guarantees their return to court.  When a person that bonds out of jail fails to appear, the bail bond company sends someone to find them so they don’t have to pay the total bail amount to the court.  That’s a pretty good incentive. The Sacramento Judges and District Attorneys typically ask for bail on many multiple offense cases at the arraignment, catching most people without attorneys (and some with attorneys) completely by surprise.  If I think bail will be required and I’m not ready to resolve a case, I have a bail bond company with me so my clients never go into custody.

With respect to DUI defenses, if a person is accused of a 3rd DUI in 10 years or for an offense involving a BAC of .20 or more, they can’t be released before the arraignment.  This could mean sitting in jail for 72 hours or longer.

Even if the law proscribes a standard set of considerations for being released, the program will be implemented by individuals and they will all bring their own baggage.  Then, in addition, there is a provision that allows the prosecution to file for something they are calling “Preventive Detention” if they think there are insufficient conditions that would protect the public and make sure the individual will make his/her court appearances.

One source cited a legislative analysis that said it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars each year to implement this system.  I, for one, am not anxious to pay more in taxes for a system of government that is already bloated.  The Elimination of Cash Bail will put bail bond companies out of business, which makes the taxpayer the guarantor of all the money defendants and their families could have financed instead.  Groups like the ACLU of California and even the San Francisco Public Defenders Office have withdrawn their support for this ill conceived bail reform.

Man hands with handcuffs