Local law enforcement officials are unhappy with an emergency order temporarily setting cash bail at $0 for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. The order was put into effect last month by the Judicial Council of California in an effort to keep jail capacities down to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Since the order went into place April 13, the impacts have already been seen locally with recent incidents like an attempted assault on a Sutter County Sheriff’s deputy and instances of re-offenders arrested by the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department.
The emergency order does not include those suspected of DUI’s or violent felonies such as sexual assault and domestic violence. The order will stay in place for 90 days past the end of the statewide emergency order or until the judicial council repeals the rule.
Law enforcement officials in Yuba and Sutter counties are concerned about people re-offending with the minimized repercussions and expressed concerns about possible community reporting fatigue. Each department has seen varying degrees of impact since the emergency order suspended bail, but all agree that it’s an overreach.
The Yuba County Sheriff’s department and District Attorneys’ office are concerned about the notion of repeat offenders -- a few of whom they’ve already seen -- who are arrested and released multiple times without the ability to hold them in jail. Recently a woman who attempted an assault on an officer was released without bail, Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry said in an email.
“She was on parole at the time of her offense, but was released on $0 bail anyway. Neither the court nor her parole officer has seen her since.”
Yuba County Sheriff’s Department public information officer Leslie Carbah said prior to the order, the department was already working to minimize capacity at the Yuba County Jail through assessing who they knew would be a good candidate for early release. She said this assessment was sufficient for the area, noting that there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the jail to date.
“Before, we had the discretion to apply some of our own local reasoning to who we felt was safer to release,” Carbah said. “We would individually look at those inmates, their individual arrest, there were a lot of considerations for what makes a good candidate for release.”
She said that now the only recourse the department has to the zero-bail order is to request bail enhancement from a judge.
Carbah said bail enhancement, the process of adding more punishment if an offender commits a crime out on bail was done, was used in the case of a repeat burglary offender who was released, and then re-offended just a few weeks later. The majority of zero-bail cases however, are released the same day.
“It certainly makes our job harder,” Carbah said. “It can be discouraging, I think, to the deputies to go through the work of investigating a case and making an arrest, and see someone go out the revolving door.”
Sutter County Undersheriff Scott Smallwood said the department hasn’t seen much of a change since the new order was implemented, noting that he estimates there’ve been about 12 zero-bail releases so far, mostly for theft and burglary.
“If you don’t have consequences they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing,” Smallwood said. “If they just keep getting arrested and don’t even have to spend a night in jail what’s the point?”
An example of the department’s frustration was a recent case where the sheriff’s office and NET-5 agents completed an undercover sting, arresting three suspects and recovered approximately $100,000 in stolen farm equipment. Smallwood said the suspects were released the same day because the felony theft charges weren’t part of a violent crime.
There was also an incident Monday where a man was arrested and released for attempting to run over a deputy during a pursuit. Kyle Brazil, 28, was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, evading, and driving under the influence of a controlled substance. He was out of custody from Kings County at the time because of the zero bail policy.
“If we didn’t have the zero bail and we didn’t have the COVID-19 issues he (Brazil) would be spending time in our jail and transferred to Kings County,” Smallwood said. “He was released because there wasn’t enough to hold him.”
Keep reporting activity
Both Yuba and Sutter county officers expressed concerns about community fatigue for reporting suspicious activity, emphasizing that reporting criminal activity is still vital to public safety.
“Just because there’s the impression that they aren’t being held accountable we still want them to report,” Carbah said. “Call us, it’s not going to stop us from pursuing an investigation.”
Smallwood said he’s noticed a slight decrease in the number of calls since the stay-at-home order started, and said the community has expressed their frustrations with the release of zero-bail offenders on the department’s Facebook page.
“I’ve had a couple community members ask what’s the point of calling if there’s no repercussions,” Smallwood said.
Carbah said the repercussions for those released on zero-bail await them when they face the criminal charges in court.
“They still have to face those charges in the court system, Carbah said. “It doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be held accountable down the road.”
Carbah also noted that calling and reporting crimes can help the department compile information for investigations such as the time of day or location where a crime occured.
“Sometimes we might be following a trend or a series and that could be a piece of the puzzle,” Carbah said. “The more information we get, the more effective our resource deployment can be.”