"Unrealistic;" Fresno judge weighs in on money bail reform

FRESNO, Calif. - A Fresno superior judge weighing in on a state bill that could change who stays in jail, and who walks free.

California Senate Bill 10 proposes getting rid of the standard money bail system, and replacing that with a pre-trial "risk assessment."

Here's why that judge says, this bill is completely unrealistic and will dramatically affect the state court system.


If Senate Bill 10 passes Lucky Bail Bonds owner Barry Pearlstein will be out of a job, but he says, that would just be the tip of the iceberg.

"You can put me out of business, but at the end of the day, the people of the state of California are going to bear that cost," Pearlstein said.

The bill proposes a pretrial "risk assessment" for everyone arrested, saying the goal, is making sure people aren't kept in jail just because they can't afford bail.

Fresno Superior Court Judge W. Kent Hamlin says, there are a host of serious problems with the legislation, like unrealistic timelines.

"We have enough trouble getting reports from law enforcement and making a decision about whether probable cause exists to hold somebody in custody in 48 hours," Hamlin said. "This bill would do that in 12?

"It's just not realistic, we can't get it done." 

Hamlin says currently, Fresno County judges do look at factors and take advantage of pretrial services, like ankle monitors.

He says this bill wouldn't allow them to take things like a person's employment, housing status, even federal immigration holds into account. Hamlin says the bill also requires a presumption of innocence, meaning the court must find a credible threat and intent to carry that out, to deny an arrested person's release.

"I mean, I'm going to have a little trial at every single arraignment? I had 126 cases yesterday," Hamlin said.

A council of judges and lawyers released a report October of 2017, saying the current money bail system is "unsafe and unfair." They recommended replacing it, with a risk-based assessment program. 

Bottom line, Hamlin says there just aren't the resources for what the bill proposes, or plans to fund it.

"I don't know what plans might be available as far as actually paying for the necessary machinery to do a meaningful risk assessment," Hamlin said. "But it's not in this bill."

Hamlin says he thinks the bill will pass.

It won't go into effect until January 2020.

Reporting in Fresno, Megan Rupe. 

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