29 Los Angeles County cities sue county over zero bail policy

(The Center Square) – 29 cities and counting in Los Angeles County are suing the county over its zero bail policy that went into effect at the beginning of the month as the result of another lawsuit.

In their lawsuit, the cities allege the new policy, implemented on October 1, does not “take into consideration the protection of the public, the safety of the victim, the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at the trial or hearing of the case.”

Under the new bail schedule, 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.

In response to the lawsuit, Associate Director Claire Simonich of Vera California, the state branch of national criminal justice reform organization the Vera Institute of Justice, told The Center Square that the data does not support what its opponents say, and that zero-cash-bail is a safe and effective criminal policy.

“The opponents are not only drowning out the factual data on the policy, but the years of research on not just Los Angeles County but in areas across the country that show ending money bail and ensuring public safety go hand in hand,” Simonich said. “A similar version of the policy has been in effect on and off for the last three years in Los Angeles County. Violent crime and property crime effectively dropped or remained unchanged compared to the two years before the policy was in place.”

Los Angeles County initially instituted a zero-bail policy to reduce incarceration-driven COVD-19 infections during the pandemic. After ending the policy, Los Angeles County was ordered to re-adopt the policy due to “dismal” pre-trial detention conditions.

A broad coalition has emerged challenging the policy, ranging from Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, a leading candidate challenging Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon in the 2024 election.

“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 regarding the policy. “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.”

“The total number of cities now suing over LA County’s $0 bail policy has reached 29. All of us want a bail policy that is fair and just for every resident of LA County. That, however, should be done in collaboration with the 88 cities and their residents, victim groups and law enforcement agencies that are going to be directly affected by immediately releasing individuals who are arrested for crimes,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, who is running against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon in the 2024 election, to The Center Square. “No one supports oppressive bail. However, most of us don’t support repeat offenders who have been negatively impacting our communities, families and businesses either. In any bail policy, public safety should be the priority.”

Among the 29 cities are a diverse number of cities ranging from progressive Santa Monica to Beverly Hills. A court hearing is set for December.

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