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As of December 8, 2020, the vast majority of people arrested for a crime in Los Angeles will be released on their own recognizance and without paying any bail. In certain cases, LADA (Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office) may ask for conditions on defendants’ release (such as electronic monitoring). Prosecutors may still request bail in felony cases involving violence, violent threats, or sexual assault. And in very serious cases, defendants may be held in pretrial custody without the ability to bail out.
What happens after people get arrested in Los Angeles County?
In most cases, people arrested for a crime in LA County will be granted O.R. release. And they can remain out of custody pending the resolution of their criminal case (this is called pretrial release).
Courts can require defendants to abide by certain conditions while they are out of custody, but only if these conditions are necessary to ensure public safety or that the defendant will come back to court. From least restrictive to most restrictive, these conditions are:
Release to a community member, friend, family member or partner with the promise to accompany the accused to court on future court dates
Phone/text/online check-ins with a designated agency
Travel restrictions – order to not leave the state and/or a passport surrender
Driving prohibitions or restrictions
Stay away order (usually from the alleged victim and/or certain locations)
AA/NA meeting attendance (or similar community support groups)
Order to surrender weapon(s) to law enforcement
Ignition interlock devices installed in all vehicles
Note that anyone arrested and booked in LA County prior to December 8, 2020 may be able to get O.R. release right away depending on their case. They should contact their Los Angeles criminal attorney to see if they can get their bail requirements lifted.
Who does not get released following an arrest in Los Angeles?
Courts may require certain defendants to remain incarcerated following their arrest (“pretrial detention”) if there is clear and convincing evidence that releasing the defendant would result in either:
the defendant fleeing, or
the defendant causing great bodily harm to someone else
When can courts impose bail in Los Angeles?
Courts many impose cashbail only in felony cases involving:
violent acts on another person,
threats of great bodily harm on another person, or
sexual assault offenses on another person
Otherwise, prosecutors may not request bail in any misdemeanor cases or in any non-serious, non-violent felony cases.
The Los Angeles D.A. directive largely eliminating cash bail is retroactive to cases prior to December 8, 2020.
Why did LADA largely do away with cash bail?
The cash bail system favors people with the financial resources to bail out. It is fundamentally unfair for affluent people to be able to bail out when poor people must remain in custody for the same exact crime.
Moreover, the bail system does not protect public safety. Allowing a high-risk person to bail out does not mitigate risks to public health. And incarcerating a low-risk person who cannot afford to bail out does not help public health either.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that cash bail creates an incentive for defendants to appear in court. Most defendants will follow through on their court case whether or not they get released on bail or O.R.
Additionally, the long-term consequences for people who cannot afford to bail out are very grave. While in jail they may lose their job, which will then cause them to lose money, which may force them to leave their homes, which then could perpetuate a cycle of crime in order to make ends meet.
Finally, statistics show that the cash bail system disproportionately affects people of color. Therefore, cash bail is a racist system.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.