SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- City Attorney Dennis Herrera today declared that the state's current bail system is unconstitutional, and, in a court filing, Herrera said he will not defend the bail system in a federal class-action lawsuit brought by a national civil rights group against San Francisco's sheriff.
Herrera is specifically pointing to California's pre-arraignment bail system, where defendants able to pay a set amount can buy their freedom, regardless of the safety or flight risk they pose. Less affluent people are forced to remain in jail as they attempt to gain their release in other ways. "That creates a two-tiered system: one for the those with money and another for those without," City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. "It doesn't make anybody safer. It's not right, and it's not in keeping with our Constitution. It's time for it to stop. To echo U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, we need to ensure that in the United States there is no price tag on justice." In California, people arrested on suspicion of a crime are generally held in jail until they appear before a magistrate unless they can pay a set amount of money as collateral. Those amounts are laid out in what's called a bail schedule, and state law requires that superior court judges in each county establish one. State law also requires that sheriff departments enforce the bail schedule. If an arrestee can pay the amount on the bail schedule (using their own money or paying a bail bondsman), they can get out of jail, regardless of whether they pose a danger to the community. If they can't pay the bail amount, they stay in jail until a court grants them release - if at all - even if they are not a danger or a flight risk. Herrera is taking legal issue with the bail process that exists prior to arraignment, when a judge or judicial officer has not had the opportunity to review the circumstances and make an individualized bail determination based on all factors. Herrera noted that the current bail system has steep costs.