COVID-19 CRIMINAL DEFENSE - Pre-Trial - Allison B. Margolin PLC

Criminal Defense

Navigating Coronavirus Laws
Pretrial Release during Coronavirus crisis
California Judicial Council Votes to Set Bail at $0 for most Lower-Level Felonies

California and LA County lowered bail to $0 for several offenses to keep people out of jail during the pandemic. But internal emails show prosecutors discussing ways to apply the old bail amount in certain cases.

In an effort to thin out jails where inmates have a high risk of contracting the coronavirus, Los Angeles County courts reduced bail for most misdemeanors and low-level felonies to $0. A few weeks later, California’s Judicial Council enacted a similar statewide rule.

Remote appearances and personal appearance waivers (Emergency Rules 3 and 5)

Until 90 days after declared emergency is over, all criminal court operations may be conducted remotely with consent of defendants (in or out of custody) – including by phone or video conference, and by e-filing and e-serving documents.

For all except for murder defendants with special circumstances alleged, or defendants in state prison the court must allow the defendant to waive personal appearance and appear by video or phone, or for counsel to appear on the defendant’s behalf.

This photo shows a preliminary hearing being conducted via Zoom with both defendants appearing from county jail with separate cells and masks, and attorneys appearing from home, in a double homicide case in WI.

Bail rules (Emergency Rule 4)

*Under state emergency bail schedule applicable April 13 – $0 bail for most offenses.

  • felony strike (serious or violent)
  • misdemeanor willful violation of protective order
  • felony resisting executive officer
  • certain witness intimidation (involving force, threats, conspiracy, or pecuniary gain)
  • spousal rape
  • misdemeanor or felony domestic battery
  • violating a restraining order (with threats, violence, or going to victim’s home or work)
  • felony criminal threats
  • misdemeanor or felony stalking
  • any crimes requiring sex offender registration
  • felony looting (burglary or grand theft during state of emergency)
  • felon in possession of firearm.

Counties are free to reduce bail for other offenses.

Bail for all misdemeanor probation violations also must be $0.

Bail for violations of felony probation or parole also must be $0 unless it is for one of the listed exceptions.

Remains in effect until 90 days after declared emergency over. (Will any of its changes remain after that?)

Pursuant to new emergency bail schedule, Defendants are supposed to be released w/o even having a bail hearing.

Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office discussed trying to get around no-bail rules by seeking arrest warrants. San Bernardino and Orange County Sheriffs were both highly critical of new no-bail law.

Some have suggested release of all the defendants will cause increased crime.