Prop 25: 2020

Proposition 25

Yes or No on Getting Rid of Bail

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The Measure

Measure Identification

Measure ID: Prop 25
Measure Name: Referendum on Law that Replaced Money Bail System with a System Based on Public Safety and Flight Risk.
Type of Ballot Measure: Referendum
Election: 2020 General


The Question:

Should the law enacted by the California Legislature to replace the current money bail system be approved?

The Situation:

In 2018, the Legislature passed SB10, which would do away with the money bail system so that people arrested or arraigned in court might not have to post bail in order to stay free pending their trial.  SB10 did not go into effect because this referendum was filed.

Currently, the State Constitution provides that people arrested and placed in county jail have the right to release before their trial.  The trial courts must consider the (1) seriousness of the crime involved, (2) person’s prior criminal record, and (3) likelihood of the person appearing at court for the trial.

In some instances, a person can be released from jail before trial just on his/her promise to appear at the trial.  In other instances, the person must provide a financial guarantee that he/she will appear.  In those cases, the person can put up their own assets as the financial guarantee, to be returned when he/she shows up at the trial.  Or the person can arrange for a bail insurance policy to provide the financial guarantee. Bail insurance companies charge non-refundable fees to provide these financial guarantees.

The Proposal:

Prop 25 would allow SB10 to go into effect. SB10 would eliminate the cash bail system. The legislation would replace the cash bail system with risk assessments to determine whether a detained suspect should be released before their trial. To do this, the state would create a system of risk assessments which would categorize suspects as low risk, medium risk, or high risk. Suspects deemed as having a low risk of failing to appear in court and a low risk to public safety would be released from jail, while those deemed a high risk would remain in jail, with a chance to argue for their release before a judge. Those deemed a medium risk could be released or kept in jail. In some cases, many people suspected of misdemeanors would be automatically released.

Fiscal Effect:

Prop 25 would impact both state and local costs, but how much is uncertain and would depend on how it would be interpreted and implemented.  The new release process would increase the workload for state trial courts, district attorneys, and public defenders.  These costs could be in the mid-hundreds of millions of dollars annually.  On the other hand, there could be reduced jail costs if fewer people are being held in jail or for shorter time periods.

Supporters Say:

  • The current system favors rich defendants who can easily make bail and keeps poor defendants and defendants of color in jail.
  • People who are eventually found not guilty or not even charged may be stuck with large debts to pay off the bail or the fees.

Opponents Say:

  • The intentions of SB10 are good, but its provisions may effectively result in more people being jailed than under the current situation.
  • Prop 25 will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year, overburdening courts and creating a new bureaucracy.
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