Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation with the largest trial court system, will place tight restrictions later this year on the use of cash bail, the Los Angeles Times reports. Only the most serious criminal cases will be eligible for cash bail under new policies announced Tuesday. As of Oct. 1, virtually all defendants accused of misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies in L.A. County will either be cited and released or freed on certain terms and conditions after judicial review within 24 hours of arrest, according to L.A. County Presiding Judge Samantha Jessner. “A person’s ability to pay a large sum of money should not be the determining factor in deciding whether that person, who is presumed innocent, stays in jail before trial or is released,” Jessner said in a statement. “Any determination of an arrestee’s status after arrest but before being charged should be based on an individualized determination of risk and likelihood to return to court."
The decision comes approximately two months after Judge Lawrence Riff granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit aimed at ending the use of cash bail to hold people in jails operated by the Los Angeles police and sheriff’s departments. Several of the plaintiffs in that suit were held in Men’s Central Jail, the ancient holding facility in downtown L.A. where many defendants await trial in abysmal conditions. Since January, 22 prisoners have died in the jail, including at least two deaths by suicide. Under the new misdemeanor schedule, almost all defendants will either be cited and released, or freed without bail after their case is reviewed by a judge, who can institute other nonfinancial conditions of release such as electronic monitoring or home supervision by probation officials. A judge will be available to make those determinations at all hours, seven days a week, Jessner said. Defendants arrested while out on parole or while free on pretrial release terms will not be eligible to be cited and released a second time, and would instead face judicial review, according to Jessner. The few misdemeanor offenses that will still require cash bail for release include stalking, domestic battery and violation of a protective order, according to the new schedule. Defendants accused of murder, manslaughter, rape and most types of assault will still face hefty cash bail amounts, according to the court.