San Diego

Bail Bonds Firms Push Back Against Reform Legislation

Under a proposed law modeled after one in New Jersey, California judges could release non-violent defendants without imposing bail.

Our state's bail industry warns it's an idea that could boost crime.

Assembly Bill 42 comes up for a preliminary vote in the Legislature on Tuesday.

It's aimed at keeping defendants who can’t afford bail from being held indefinitely before the trial process.

And it could put bail bonds companies out of business.

Law enforcement groups haven't taken a position on the legislation.

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court is studying the issues for a report in December.

But opponents say early results in New Jersey show an increase in crimes committed by people who were just released on "their own recognizance", at no cost.

Under AB 42, counties would conduct pre-trial "assessments" as to whether someone arrested is a safety threat or risk not to show up for court.

Based on that, judges would decide whether to release those booked for serious felonies, domestic violence, stalking or violating a court order.

While the legislation also is aimed at reducing jail costs and overcrowding, critics say there have been big "hidden costs" in New Jersey, and questions raised about factors in the assessment methods.

“I believe it’s sort of a slippery slope,” said Steffan Gibbs, CEO of All-Pro Bail Bonds. “We’re running into a place where the government is going to be deciding who gets out a who doesn’t and what conditions they have to follow.”

In an interview Monday with NBC 7, Gibbs offered this cautionary note: "There are many unforeseen circumstances down the road where before, people could have gotten out of jail, and now they're waiting three or four or five days for the government service that's provided through pre-trial to get themselves out."

The Assembly bill is identical to one in the state Senate, SB 10, which already has crossed its first hurdle.

Seven other states are looking at similar reforms.

Gibbs suggests that instead, California should adopt a centralized bail schedule and explore other ways of reforming the system.

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