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Judge halts cash bail for low-level LA County cases

A judge has issued a preliminary injunction preventing the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County from demanding cash bail from many arrested people who are still awaiting arraignment.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff held hearings on the issue, was presented with testimony and then took the case under submission for a week before ruling on Tuesday, May 16.

Riff ordered all of the parties to come up with different pretrial detention rules within 60 days, with possible options including releasing people on their own with a promise to appear or the use of electronic monitoring.

In the meantime, those taken into custody for non-violent and non-serious offenses cannot be required to pay bail before their arraignments, which is when the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty, according to Riff. Those arrested for violent felonies or certain serious misdemeanors, including domestic violence, are not protected by the injunction.

The judge noted that six plaintiffs in a particular case were among tens of thousands of people who are arrested annually and then held in jail until a bench officer determines under what conditions they may be released while awaiting further court hearings. All of the six plaintiffs spent five days in jail because they could not afford to post the scheduled bail.

Arrestees with sufficient wealth or other support can post the bail amount immediately and go free, while others not so fortunate have to stay in jail until their hearings, the judge wrote.

The plaintiffs maintained the “wealth-based detention system” is unconstitutional under the state and federal constitutions.

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