SB 1180 (Hancock) Criminal Procedure: release on defendant’s own recognizance (As amended 5/14/12)

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Senator Loni Hancock
California State Senate
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Position: OPPOSE
Location: Senate Floor

RE: SB 1180 (Hancock) Criminal Procedure: release on defendant’s own recognizance (As amended 5/14/12)

Dear Senator Hancock:

Golden State Bail Agents Association (GSBAA) is a trade association representing the California bail industry. The purpose of the association is to promote the understanding of the bail industry’s important role in California’s criminal justice system and to protect the rights of its citizens. The Association is headquartered in Sacramento, California, but has members throughout California. The members of GSBAA include bail employees, bail agents and bail insurance companies.

GSBAA opposes SB 1180 because it will undermine public safety and deprive victims of their day in court by authorizing the release of pre-trail defendants on own recognizance release with or without electronic monitoring and without having to post bail.

The bail industry is highly motivated to return bail fugitives to justice as shown in the enclosed chart from the January 28, 2008 New York Times. As you can see, only 3% of defendants released on surety bond remained fugitives one year after they failed to appear while 8% of defendants released on their own recognizance remained at large after one year. This means that defendants released on OR were 266% more likely to remain fugitives than those released on bail.

Furthermore, those who are asked to put up the money or cosign on the bail bond have an incentive to verify that the defendant does not represent an unacceptably high risk of flight prior to helping with his release; and they have an incentive to help him attend his court hearings.

Electronic monitoring can be a useful tool in the right circumstances, such as in the post-conviction context where bail is not available. However, electronic monitoring is not a panacea. Bail is a superior method of release in the pre-trial context because bail has lower rates of failures to appear and lower costs than electronic monitoring.

A 2011 study found that electronic monitoring had a 70% rate of false alerts causing significant increases in officer workloads, costs and dangers to public safety. (G.S. Armstrong, B.C. Freeman / Journal of Criminal Justice 39 (2011) 175–182)

This bill also conflicts with the 30/60 day waiting period of Penal Code Section 1203.018, and our amendment brings it into harmony with that statute.

In regards to Penal Code Section 1318.1, we have added the reduction of bail as a mandatory consideration of the recommendations and reports issued under this Section. As discussed above, bail is a superior method of release to OR at no cost to the tax payers and evidence-based pre-trial risk assessment tools apply equally well to the determination of whether to reduce bail or release on own recognizance.

This bill may also be unconstitutional under Marsy’s Law (Proposition 9) which was passed by the voters in 2008. Marsy’s Law added the public safety bail provision to the California Constitution (Art. I, § 28(f)(3)), which requires that in setting bail or own recognizance release, the protection of the public and the safety of the victim shall be the primary considerations.

The safety of the victim is not listed as a primary consideration in this bill. Instead the bill states only that “public safety” shall be the primary consideration in deciding whether to release the defendant.

Marsy’s Law also requires that victims be given notice of a defendant’s change in release status and an opportunity to be heard. (Art. I, § 28(b)(8), (f)(3).) This bill provides no notice to victims or opportunity to be heard.

Should you have any questions please contact our legislative advocate, Kathryn Lynch, at (916) 443-0202.


John Bench, President
Golden State Bail Agents Association

Mr. Aaron Maguire, Deputy Legislative Secretary, Governor’s Office
Mr. Bob Graham, Senate Floor Analyst
Mr. Eric Csizmar, Consultant, Senate Republican Caucus
Ms. Kathryn Lynch, Legislative Advocate
Golden State Bail Agents Association