Released with a promise to appear.

Via Palm Beach Post:

California could dramatically change the way it pressures criminal defendants to show up for court, doing away with monetary bail for most and taking income into account for others to ensure poor suspects get an equal shot at freedom.

Instead of requiring suspects to post bail, county officials would decide whether to release them based on their risk to public safety and would use jail alternatives like home detention or monitoring bracelets that track their locations.

When a judge decides monetary bail is needed for suspects accused of serious or violent crimes, the amount would be based on defendants’ incomes instead of on a pre-determined bail schedule that varies in each of California’s 58 counties.

“It fundamentally transforms a broken cash bail system that punishes poor people for being poor,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland.

He and Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, have submitted bills that would create the new system. Hertzberg’s bill has its first committee hearing Tuesday.

The current system keeps many innocent people behind bars, disproportionately affects minority defendants and encourages some suspects to plead guilty simply to get out of jail, bill supporters say.

Bail is money or property that can be forfeited if suspects fail to appear for trial. When defendants can’t post bail they often hire a bail company that puts up the money for a fee, typically 10 percent of the full bail amount. The company must pay the court in full if the accused do not show up.

The median bail in California was $50,000, the Public Policy Institute of California reported last year, and the $5,000 required to get a company to post bail is out of reach for many.

If a person is acquitted or the charges are dropped, bail money they put up themselves is returned.

But if they hire a bail company they lose the 10 percent. That’s what happened to Ato Walker, a 37-year-old janitor from San Jose.

Keep reading…