A bill that would establish a statewide guide for bail amounts has passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee. Introduced by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, Assembly Bill 1118 has been said to be necessary in order to help address the inequalities in bail amounts that are set for the same crimes. Hagman mentioned that a bail on a felony charge of grand theft may be range from $5000 in Placer County to $50,000 in San Bernardino County, showing the large amount of inequality present. How will the bill change this issue?
The bill would provide counties with the option of being able to adopt the advisory statewide bail schedule. As a result, the bail bonds industry would be able to benefit from counties with high bail by adopting a schedule that would be more affordable to the people who are seeking to have access to the bonds. It would also require for the Judicial Council to prepare and adopt, as well as revise, a statewide bail schedule by 2015. This would apply to all bailable felony, infraction, and misdemeanor offenses with the exception of vehicular code infractions.
Although this would be a very positive change for the industry, the California District Attorneys Association is opposing the bill. The association claims that prosecutors agree with the current law as it stands. The current law allows for superior court judges in their county to be able to set their own bail schedule independently, which is much different from what the new proposed law would offer.
One of the main concerns that many have regarding the bill itself is due to a possible conflict in interest that is being presented by Hagman. The assemblyman actually owns his own bonds company, Apex Bail Bonds. The firm is known to have three offices in the area of Southern California. Some people have stated that they felt that the reason that Hagman was supporting the bill and introducing it to everyone is because he would be able to get the most amount of benefit from it or it would pose some sort of benefit to his firm. Others have said that they feel that it may provide more benefit for bond firms than for the industry itself, citing that the changes are unnecessary and that the bill must be getting presented for the personal gain of either the assemblyman or other parties that remain unknown.
It remains unknown whether or not Hagman would actually benefit from the bill that he proposed to the committee. Although some have felt suspicious about the bill passing, there are many who have supported the option of making these changes as well. Some have said they feel more comfortable with having a bill pass that has been proposed by an assemblyman who is clearly experienced with the bail bond industry, citing that it shows that he has a greater understanding of some of the common occurrences and issues that the industry faces on a regular basis.