A Los Angeles judge has ruled that it is against their constitutional rights to hold detainees on bail if they can’t afford to pay.
LA County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff ruled Wednesday in favor of a group of six activists who filed a lawsuit against the county, claiming that the previous system favored the well-to-do. All plaintiffs say they suffered under the bail system.
They testified that because they could not pay their bail, they missed work, causing their families to suffer.
If they are in prison even for a short time, they could lose their jobs, their housing or custody of their children. They suffer all the disadvantages of confinement in a prison cell, even though a large proportion of them will never be formally charged with a crime, let alone convicted,” part of the indictment reads.
Judge Riff said in his decision that he considered it unconstitutional to keep people behind bars simply because they are in poverty is not a legal form of punishment.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Los Angeles County lifted cash bail to address overcrowding issues.
The current ruling will remain in effect for 60 days, during which time the city and district must develop a “constitutionally sound, effective and concrete” plan to deal with those arrested for minor offenses.
DA Gascon’s 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 subject to cash bail when arrested again.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recognized the judge’s ruling and abided by the guidelines.
The ruling means those arrested for misdemeanor and non-violence “would be released upon recognition or on non-monetary terms,” the department said.
The department will release those arrested for crimes such as theft, shoplifting, drug use, vandalism and batteries, police said. Fox Los Angeles.
Those arrested for crimes such as sex offenses, domestic violence and gun violations are exempt from the new policy.
LA Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told the channel that the judge had invited law enforcement officials to come forward and oppose his ruling. McKinney said Riff was surprised when no one came forward.
While former LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told Fox he would have spoken out against the ruling.
The biggest impact won’t actually be on the sheriff’s department, LAPD. It concerns the other 45 municipalities that have their own police departments, as they now bear the burden of having to hand over their own prisoners to court for charges before they can be taken into custody by the sheriff. That will be the biggest impact,” he said.
Riff said prosecutors had presented “a tremendous amount of evidence” proving the harm caused by the bail system. They also showed that cash bail had little to no impact on overall crime rates.
On May 5, the success or failure of the new system will be reported.
Gascon is accused of allowing 10,000 cases to pile up and prompting dozens of prosecutors to stop
The ruling came just as Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon was charged with allowing up to 10,000 cases to pile up and caused countless prosecutors to shut down.
Described as an “authoritarian” and “toxic” manager, Gascon allegedly shooed away talent, demoted top lawyers and fought anyone with opposing views, multiple sources who worked with the district attorney told the New York Post.
Gascon’s “awakened” policy has created public distrust, according to a former LA prosecutor — who said generous plea deals allow criminals to get out of prison without serving time or prevent crimes from being prosecuted at all.
“In my career as a prosecutor, I’ve never had victims’ families really hate us until I came into this office,” a former deputy prosecutor told The Post. “We are hated by all victims because of the 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 criminal law again.’
Eric Siddall, vice president of the LA County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said the firm’s reputation has been destroyed.
“People know he’s hostile to his employees,” he said.
“He has an authoritarian leadership style and engages in retaliation against employees who do not share his ideology,” he told The Post.
There are reportedly more than 200 vacancies 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 prosecution disputed this claim, insisting they have only 139 open positions, blaming the lack of staff on ‘retirement and a previous hiring freeze’ – but did not mention the 10,000 cases yet to be filed.
“During the hiring freeze, our office applied for permission from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to fill vacancies, but that request was denied,” said a source from the LA County DA’s office.
“During this administration, some prosecutors have moved to other jurisdictions, while others have been hired by our office from other jurisdictions.”
The agency 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 prevent the public prosecutor from filing a case at a later date, as long as it falls within the statute of limitations,” the OM said.
Former Los Angeles County DA Steve Cooley, who ran the office from 2000 to 2012, told The Post that historically, recruiting wasn’t an issue until Gascon took office.
But the lack of talent doesn’t come as a shock to Cooley.
“I’m not surprised because some of the people he’s brought in are just disgusting people. Who would want to come and work here under such conditions?’ Cooley said.