California Proposition 25: Replacing Cash Bail with Risk Assessment

California Proposition 25, the Replace Cash Bail with Risk Assessments Referendum, is on the California ballot as a veto referendum. Prop. 25 decides the fate of Senate Bill 10 which “eliminates the cash bail system, replacing it with an algorithm than determines whether a person is held in jail or let out on their own recognizance” (Edinger, 2020).

In California, the cash bail system is constructed to release detainees before their trials commence. Criminal suspects pay a cash bond that release them from jail, pending trial, with the promise to return for court hearings and trial. Regardless of the outcome, criminal suspects are repaid the cash bond after completion of criminal trials. Bail is thus used to “ensure the presence of the defendant before the court” (Judicial Council of California).

As it relates to the cash bail system, Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, sought to eliminate the cash bail system and replace it with risk assessments as determinants of whether a suspect ” should be granted pretrial release and under what conditions. The risk assessments would categorize suspects as low risk, medium risk, or high risk” regarding the risk of failing to appear in court and to public safety.

  • Low-risk suspects would be released from jail while awaiting court hearings and trial
  • Medium-risk suspects have the opportunity to be released from jail while awaiting court hearings and trial, depending on the local court’s rules
  • High-risk suspects would remain in jail while awaiting court hearings and trial, with the opportunity to argue their release before a judge
  • Important to note:
    • SB 10 would exempt misdemeanor suspects from needing risk assessment to be released

As a veto referendum, Proposition 25, if passed, would uphold SB 10, which would replace cash bail with risk assessment for criminal suspects. A “no” vote for Proposition 25 would repeal SB 10, maintaining the use of the cash bail system for detainees awaiting court hearings and trials.

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