In January, the California Bail Reform Act (Senate Bill 10) was put on hold after a referendum qualified to let voters decide if cash bail will be abolished in California. The law was scheduled to take effect this October, but the fate of SB 10 will now be decided by voters in November 2020. According to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a random sampling of petitions submitted by supporters of the referendum showed they had gathered over 402,468 valid signatures, which is needed to make the ballot. SB 10 was signed in August by then Gov. Jerry Brown and it was cosponsored by state Senator Bob Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta. If the referendum fails in November 2020, then SB 10 would make California the first state to eliminate the requirement that a defendant post monetary bail in order to be freed while awaiting trial.
If SB 10 remains in place, a judge would decide whether a defendant could be released safely based on a risk assessment algorithm. Supporters of the bill, including Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, believe that cash bail doesn’t promote safety and it unfairly penalizes low-income defendants. However, opponents of the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union, believe SB 10 would simply put in place a new system of pretrial detention that would vary from one court to another and that it would actually pose the risk of racial bias. We will have to wait and see what voters decide in November 2020 regarding SB 10.