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State Judicial Council Votes To End COVID-19 Zero Bail Policy

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- The Judicial Council of California on Wednesday voted to end the COVID-19 emergency zero bail schedule in addition to other measures as California continues its phased re-opening.

The Judicial Council voted 17-2 to rescind the zero bail policy, effective June 20. The COVID-19 temporary bail schedule that set presumptive bail at $0 for people accused of lower-level crimes, a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 in jails and surrounding communities.

Law enforcement agencies and local prosecutors in the Bay Area have railed against the zero bail releases of suspects, and say some of those being released should not be eligible for bail and are often repeat offenders while out on bail.

As with a regular bail schedule, law enforcement could petition a judge to raise or deny bail if there was concern for public safety. Those accused of violent felonies, offenses requiring sex offender registration, domestic violence, stalking, or driving under the influence were not eligible.

The change reduced the state jail population by more than 20,000 while crime rates stayed at historic lows, according to the council.

Additionally, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye rescinded her statewide order extending time for defendants to be arraigned. That change would require defendants again be arraigned within 48 hours.

"The Judicial Council's action better reflects the current needs of our state, which has different health concerns and restrictions county-to-county based on the threat posed by COVID-19," said Justice Marsha Slough, a Judicial Council member and chair of the Executive and Planning Committee. "We urge local courts to continue to use the emergency COVID-19 bail schedule where necessary to protect the health of the community, the courts, and the incarcerated. We are also asking courts to report back by June 20 on whether they plan to keep the COVID-19 emergency bail schedule, or another reduced bail schedule."

The Judicial Council adopted 13 emergency rules to balance providing access to justice with protecting the health and safety of the public, litigants, attorneys, court employees, and judicial officers.

Since the emergency rules were approved, conditions have changed: 51 counties have received a variance and are reopening. Last week, the Judicial Council approved changes to its emergency rule that paused statutes of limitations in civil cases.

The Judicial Council may re-institute these measures if health conditions worsen or change.


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