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California Becomes the First State to Officially Eliminate Cash Bail

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California became the first state to eliminate cash bail, as the governor signed a bail reform bill into law.JLFCapture—Getty Images/iStockphoto

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to reform the state’s bail system, officially eliminating cash bail for suspects awaiting trial.

While other states such as New Jersey and Kentucky have greatly reduced their reliance on bail, California is the first state to make the elimination of cash bail its official policy.

The law, which will go into effect on October 1, 2019, will replace bail with a system that determines the custody status of a defendant awaiting trial by the risk posed to public safety and the likelihood of missing a court date, instead of the ability to pay cash bail.

In recent years, some U.S. cities and states have moved away from the practice of setting bail for suspects awaiting trial, with critics of the bail system arguing that it unfairly jails defendants who can’t pay bail and frees sometimes violent ones who can.

“Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Brown said in a statement.

While some lauded California’s bill for ending predatory lending practices, others have criticized it. The ACLU of California, which initially supported the bill, ended up opposing it for giving too much control to courts in deciding which defendants remain in jail.

Others felt the law would lead to job losses in the cash-bail industry. David Quintana, a lobbyist for the California Bail Agents Association, told the Wall Street Journal that the bill could cost up to 7,000 jobs, while making it easier for suspects to skip out on their court dates.