The Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office is taking steps to stop the release of hundreds of local inmates after the California Judicial Council instituted a zero bail amount for misdemeanor offenses and some felonies.
On April 7, the California Judicial Council set bail statewide at $0 for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the jails. The order was made to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among a population that is not able to social distance to the extent of the general public.
Each county in California has a bail schedule which determines what the bail amount will be for a particular offense. A judge can change that amount when considering other factors, like additional charges or enhancements, criminal history, flight risk and community ties. The order from the judicial council essentially set the bail schedule for misdemeanor offenses to zero bail statewide.
District Attorney's Office spokesman Deputy District Attorney John Goold said the office has been reviewing more than 300 cases and filing oppositions to a zero bail amount when it warrants it.
"In our view, even though bail has been set for zero dollars for a wide variety of cases, judges still retain discretion to set bail in excess of the bail schedule and set it higher than zero dollars," Goold said at a press conference.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse said on Monday that initially the directive would have been applied to 353 cases, but after review it was down to 66, and that number could go up or down as the reviews are concluded.
Dirkse said previously that he expected the zero bail amount could cause an uptick in crime. He said the sheriff's department has been modifying assignments to ensure more deputies are on patrol and will be using the air unit every day.
"Keeping criminals in jail is good for our community and public safety," Dirkse said.