A Los Angeles judge has ruled that holding inmates to cash bail when they can’t afford to pay is a violation of their constitutional rights.
LA County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff ruled on Wednesday in favor of a group of six activists who brought a lawsuit against the county, alleging that the previous system favored the affluent. All of the plaintiffs say that they have suffered under the cash bail system.
They testified that because they could not afford their bail, they missed work, causing their families to suffer.
Being jailed for even short periods of time may cause them to lose their jobs, their housing, or custody of their children. They suffer all the harms of confinement in a jail cell even though a large portion of them will never be formally charged with any crime, let alone convicted,’ one section of the suit reads.
Judge Riff said in his decision that he felt that it was unconstitutional to keep people behind bars purely for the reason that they are in poverty is not a legal form of punishment.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Los Angeles County removed cash bail to aid overcrowding issues.
The current ruling will remain in place for 60 days during which time the city and county must develop as ‘constitutionally sound, effective, concrete’ plan to handle those arrested for minor offenses.
DA Gascon soft-on-crime approach is under fire as violent crimes rise in LA
Those who commit a second crime while awaiting trial on other charges will be subjected to cash bail when they’re rearrested.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department acknowledged the judge’s ruling and that it was adhere to the guidelines.
The ruling means that those arrested for misdemeanor and non-violent ‘would be released on their recognizance or subject to non-monetary conditions,’ according to the department.
They department will allow those arrested for crimes such as theft, shoplifting, drug use, vandalism and battery to go free, reports Fox Los Angeles.
Those arrested for crimes such as sexual offenses, domestic violence and weapons violations are exempt from the new policy.
LA Deputy DA John McKinney told the channel that the judge invited law enforcement officials to come forward and argue against his ruling. McKinney said that Riff was surprised when nobody came forward.
While former LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told Fox that he would have spoke up against the ruling.
”The biggest impact actually is not going to be on the sheriff’s department, LAPD. It’s going to be on the other 45 municipalities that have their own police departments, because now they carry the burden of having to deliver their own inmates to court until the arraignment before they can go into the custody of the sheriff. That’s going to be the biggest impact,’ he said.
Riff said that the plaintiffs had shown ‘a vast amount of evidence’ showing the damage caused by the cash bail system. They also demonstrated that cash bail had little to no impact on overall crime figures.
A report on the success or failure of the new system will be made on May 5th.
Gascon has been accused of letting 10,000 cases pile up and driving scores of prosecutors to quit
The ruling came just as Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon was accused of letting up to 10,000 cases to pile up and causing numerous prosecutors to quit.
Described as an ‘authoritarian’ and ‘toxic’ manager, Gascon is said to have driven talent away, demoted top lawyers and fought anyone with opposing views, multiple sources who have worked with the DA told the New York Post.
Gascon’s ‘woke’ policies have caused public distrust, according to a former LA prosecutor – who said generous plea deals are allowing criminals to get out of jail without serving hard time or crimes are not being prosecuted at all.
‘In my career as a prosecutor, I’ve never had victims’ families actually hate us until I came into this office,’ a former deputy DA told The Post. ‘We are hated by all the victims because of lack of prosecution and low sentences because of his policies.’
‘Gascón is so focused on justice for black and brown defendants, but the victims and their families are also black and brown. Where is the justice for them? We are making them victims of the criminal justice system yet again.’
Eric Siddall, LA County Association of Deputy District Attorneys vice president, said the reputation of the office has been destroyed.
‘People know he’s hostile to his employees,’ he said.
‘He has an authoritarian management style, and engages in retaliatory acts against employees who don’t share his ideology,’ he told The Post.
There are reportedly over 200 open positions in the District Attorney’s office, with not enough candidates willing to fill them, sources told The Post.
The lack of staff has led to a backlog of up to 10,000 cases.
The DA’s Office contested this claim, insisting they only have 139 open positions, and blamed the lack of staff on ‘retirement and a previous hiring freeze’ – but did not mention the 10,000 cases that have yet to be filed.
‘During the hiring freeze, our office sought permission from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to fill positions but that request was denied,’ A source from the LA County DA’s office said.
‘During this administration some prosecutors have left for other jurisdictions, while others have been hired by our office from other jurisdictions.’
The office argued that there are many reasons why a case is not filed immediately, including the need for further investigation.
‘A delay in filing a case does not preclude the prosecutor from filing a case at a later date as long as it is within the statute of limitations,’ according to the DA’s office.
Former Los Angeles County DA Steve Cooley, who ran the office from 2000 to 2012, told The Post that from a historical standpoint, recruitment had not previously been an issue until Gascon took office.
But the lack of talent does not come as a shock to Cooley.
‘I’m not surprised because some of the people he’s brought in are just odious people. Who would want to come and work here under such conditions?’ Cooley said.