Sacramento, CA — California lawmakers want to eliminate money bail for defendants awaiting trial under a proposal unveiled Thursday.
Under the plan, most suspects accused of nonviolent misdemeanors would be released within 12 hours of being booked in jail. People accused of serious, violent felonies would not be eligible for pretrial release. The proposal would give courts wide latitude to decide whether to release other suspects before trial, based on their likeliness to return to court and the danger they pose to public safety.
Under the current system, defendants had to put down bail, which was in the form of money or property, to be released from jail. Failure to appear in court would result in the forfeiture of the bail.
Supporters say the current system unfairly penalizes low-income people. The new proposal would end that system in the fall of 2019.
California lawmakers are also considering whether to limit the state’s “felony murder” rule. It holds accomplices just as responsible for the crime as if they had personally committed the crime. Supporter of changing the rules argue that it is unfair that accomplices can face execution or life prison sentences even if they were unaware that a killing would or did take place. Prosecutors counter it could create problems in resentencing prior offenders.