Attorney General Kamala Harris is stepping to defend the California law requiring criminal defendants to post bail to be released while awaiting trial. The case was initiated in San Francisco, through a lawsuit to prove the unconstitutionality of the bail system.
Harris' office stepped in after the San Francisco City Attorney and Sheriff refused to defend the law, questioning the constitutionality and fairness of the situation.
Harris' office has said the Attorney General will seek approval from a federal judge in Oakland to intervene in the case pending in federal district court in San Francisco.
Bail bond companies share interest in the case and want to step in to defend the cash-bail system, yet the request has been denied.
Currently state law requires courts in each county to set bail according to the seriousness of the crime. Those who post bail are set free while waiting to go to trial. Yet, those who cannot pay the amount, or the 10 percent fee charged by bond companies, remain in jail until they are formally charged or arraigned. This usually takes up to two days. At that point, the judge sets conditions for pretrial release, often including bail, based on any danger they present to the public and any risk that the defendant might flee.
The current bail schedules are unjustified and extremely expensive. Many low-income families cannot afford current bail and it prevents them from getting released pretrial. This system is unconstitutional as it allows for those with money to be freed, while those who do not have the financial means are stuck in custody. This should not be the case. Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit seeking to get rid of the cash-bail system, is the group that brought about the lawsuit. They believe that low-income defendants suffer in jail for minor offenses while those wealthy people who are accused of more serious crimes can often post bail while awaiting trial. All counties in California, and most especially San Francisco and Alameda counties, should abolish this unjustified law that favors the wealthy.