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California Considers Ditching Cash Bail System To Help Poor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS13) - California lawmakers are taking a closer look at the state's bail system. New legislation aims to change the entire pre-trial process.

"It's a way to basically punish people and keep people in jail who are poor," said Senator Bob Hertzberg, District 18.

Right now, bail is set after a person is arrested. The amount depends on a fee schedule that's different in each county. Then, the accused person either pays upfront or pays 10% of the money to a bond company. State lawmakers believe that chunk of change could be too big for some Californians.

"You got people sitting there for months because they don't have a few hundred dollars to get out of jail," Hertzberg said.

Senator Bob Hertzberg has introduced SB10, an attempt to replace the cash bail system with another way to determine who stays in jail before a trial and who is released.

"If you're a threat, you're in trouble, no threat, let these people out," he said. "Public safety is paramount, critical. But justice is also critical."

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the median bail in California is $50,000. Even 10 percent of that is beyond the reach of many.

For bail bondsmen, it could mean the end of their livelihood.

"It's a situation where, we will be replaced by government-funded programs," said Topo Padilla with Greg Padilla Bail Bonds.

He told CBS13, there's a bigger problem than he and his colleagues having to find another line of work.

"You are going to eliminate an industry that at no cost to the taxpayers, bails people out of jail, thus not causing taxpayers to have the pay for them to sit in jail, and when they do fail to appear in court, we are the very entity that brings them back to court, without any cost to the taxpayer," Padilla said.

The legislation is preliminary, but lawmakers will look to New Jersey and Washington, D.C. for guidance, places that have already moved toward a no-bail system.

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