Becerra argues that the practice of setting unaffordable bail violates defendants’ rights but individuals who pose a danger to public safety or a flight risk may be detained
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra this week filed an amicus brief in the California Supreme Court case In re Kenneth Humphrey. Humphrey had been detained in the San Francisco jail while awaiting trial because he was unable to afford the $350,000 bail set by the San Francisco Superior Court.
“Bail determinations should be about danger to the public, not money in your pocket,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Decisions regarding whether to keep a person in jail while he or she is awaiting trial must ensure public safety and respect the rights of defendants. Whenever possible, we should be using alternatives to incarceration that preserve public safety and ensure a defendant’s return to court.”
In the brief, Attorney General Becerra argues that principles of due process and equal protection require consideration of a criminal defendant’s ability to pay in setting the amount of any monetary bail. The brief also argues that the California Constitution permits the Legislature to protect victims and the public through alternatives to money bail, such as programs to detain dangerous defendants pending trial.
In October 2017, a judicial working group recommended that California’s system of pretrial detention and release be significantly changed. Attorney General Becerra agreed with the working group’s finding and stated that the “current bail system is unfair and penalizes the poor.”
On August 28, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 10, a bill that will eliminate the money bail system in California and replace it with a system that assesses each person’s individual public safety or flight risk.