Calif. Supreme Court rules judges must consider if a suspect can afford bail when setting amount

MIAMI - FEBRUARY 02: A judges gavel rests on top of a desk in the courtroom of the newly opened Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum February 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The museum is located in the only known structure in the nation that was designed, devoted to and operated as a separate station house and municipal court for African-Americans. In September 1944, the first black patrolmen were sworn in as emergency policemen to enforce the law in what was then called the "Central Negro District." The precinct building opened in May 1950 to provide a station house for the black policemen and a courtroom for black judges in which to adjudicate black defendants. The building operated from 1950 until its closing in 1963.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI – FEBRUARY 02: A judge’s gavel rested on top of a desk in the courtroom on February 3, 2009 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 6:00 PM PT – Friday, March 26, 2021

The California Supreme Court ruled judges must consider a suspect’s ability to pay bail when considering setting a bail amount.

The court’s unanimous decision came on Thursday, with justices saying it’s unconstitutional to condition an arrestee’s freedom on whether or not they can afford bail. Judges can still require electronic monitoring, check-ins with authorities or order a suspect to undergo drug and alcohol treatment.

Experts warned the ruling could cause delays in the system.

“There has to be an individual assessment of wealth, or lack of ability to pay,” attorney Dale Miller said. “That will be a cumbersome process, and I think that might create a slowdown in the finding of an appropriate bail amount.”

Reports said the median bail amount in California is $50,000.

Voters in November voted against a state law that would have ended California’s cash bail system.

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