A federal judge has cleared the way for trial to determine the constitutionality of bail requirements in San Francisco and statewide, ruling that defenders of the system must show it’s the best and least-restrictive way to make sure that defendants who have been released from jail show up in court.
Critics of California’s bail law contend in a lawsuit that the system, as applied in San Francisco, discriminates against the poor by keeping them in jail while wealthier people charged with the same crimes go free. It challenges the law’s requirement that a defendant pay bail, or the nonrefundable 10 percent fee charged by bail bond companies, to be released after arrest.
In a ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of Oakland denied the plaintiffs’ requests to declare the bail system unconstitutional without a trial, and by bail bond companies to dismiss the suit.
The judge said a trial is needed to determine whether requiring newly arrested defendants to post bail in order to gain their freedom violates their rights to liberty and equal treatment under the law.
Harmeet Dhillon, lawyer for the California Bail Agents Association, said the judge had clarified the issues and had made it clear that it was up to the plaintiffs to show some practical alternative to the current system.