San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson told the Chino Hills City Council Tuesday that the emergency rule issued by the Judicial Council of California setting bail statewide at zero dollars was “sprung” upon his office with only a week to implement it.
The Judicial Council, the policy-making body of the California courts, adopted the new bail schedule as an emergency measure to reduce inmate populations so that the coronavirus will not spread as quickly.
The order, in effect since April 13, applies to every accused person arrested and in pre-trial custody, with exceptions for serious felonies and some violent felonies.
Mr. Anderson said he was concerned that misdemeanor and felony child abuse and elder abuse were not excluded in the order.
“Where will they go when released?” he said. “Back into the home to inflict injury.”
Mr. Anderson emphasized that zero bail does not mean the person is being cleared of the crime and the case is dropped. The suspect still must go through the court system, he said.
Mr. Anderson said the probation department can require arrestees to have a GPS tracker.
He said crimes such as felony auto theft and felony evading, which are willful and reckless, were not included in the exception.
“We have been able to argue with our local bench that the bail should be increased, and we have had some success, but not every time,” he said. “It depends on the judge.”
Mr. Anderson said his office had several meetings with the local judiciary and defense bar.
He commended the presiding judge of San Bernardino County and the other judges for listening and giving his office latitude.
He said there have been 446 arrested under zero bail. Of that amount, 31 have been re-arrested.
“That number is less than 10 percent of 446, but it’s 31 more than we would like who are having an impact on our law-abiding citizens,” he said.
The policy will remain in effect 90 days after the governor lifts the coronavirus state of emergency.
“We could be dealing with this all summer and I’m not wild about that,” he said.
Mr. Anderson said the zero-bail order might be viewed differently if San Bernardino County jails had a high percentage of coronavirus cases.
According to the San Bernardino County COVID-19 “dashboard” webpage, six staff members and two inmates at West Valley Detention Center have tested positive for coronavirus.
Other jail facilities include Central Detention Center, Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center and High Desert Detention Center.
Mr. Anderson said his office will do everything it can to ensure that despite the zero bail order, “we will object when people get released and we will have hearings to ensure inmates who don’t deserve to be released, don’t get released.”
City Manager Benjamin Montgomery said the city of Chino Hills sent a letter of opposition to the zero-bail policy, signed by Mayor Art Bennett, to the Judicial Council.
Those who want to learn about the role of the Judicial Council of California may visit courts.ca.gov and scroll down to Judicial Council.
Mr. Anderson said residents may contact his office to find out how they can express concerns to the Judicial Council of California by calling 382-3800.