(The Center Square) – Los Angeles County instituted a zero-cash-bail policy, a move to reduce disparate impacts that law enforcement officials say could lead to increased crime. The county first adopted a zero-bail policy during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the number of individuals in jails, before being ordered to restore the policy again due to “dismal” pre-trial detention conditions.
“Our communities have not been shy about telling us how nervous they are about this change,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week. “Crime victims who see offenders immediately released from custody are left with little confidence in the criminal justice system. I understand the need to respect the constitutional rights of arrestees, but zero-bail can demoralize deputies and police officers who work hard to make arrests, only to watch the offender walk away with a citation as the victim looks on in disbelief.”
Assault, stalking, domestic battery and violation of a protective order will still require cash bail, while human trafficking, battery on a peace officer and sex with a minor will trigger judicial review. However, most individuals arrested for most offenses will either be cited and released at the site of their arrest, or booked and released at the law enforcement office with orders to appear in court for arraignment on a set date.
To combat the potential that individuals will use this policy to commit more crimes, defendants who are out on either parole or free before their trials are caught committing crimes will go before judges instead of being automatically released without bail again. But, according to law enforcement experts, a lack of real-time data shared across the county’s over 50 law enforcement departments means this practice would not be possible to put into effect with the county’s current state of law enforcement data infrastructure.
“You can get arrested in Pomona for a felony, you’re caught and released, cited out, and get arrested in Pacoima, and you’d be out again, because there’s no method of knowing who has been cited where,” said former Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva to The Center Square.
12 cities in Los Angeles County, including Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs, Vernon and Whittier announced a lawsuit to block the policy from going into effect.
“This zero-bail schedule is just another policy that leaves us less safe than we should be,” Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said in a public statement announcing the lawsuit.
Amid a spate of viral “smash and grab” robberies — nonviolent, bail-free crimes so long as weapons were not used — some arrested suspects were immediately released under orders to appear in court.
The Superior Court of Los Angeles County cited a study finding eliminating pre-trial detention decreases rearrests in justifying its decision, but other California studies seem to refute this. According to a government analysis of data in Yolo County, while zero-bail policies were in effect from April 2020 through June 1, 2021, 71% of those arrested were rearrested during that time frame, while 29% of those rearrested were arrested for violent crimes.