Call Today! Free Immediate Response (818) 781-1570


Zero Bail Policy in Los Angeles County

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Mar 22, 2024

In the fall of 2023, Los Angeles County implemented a significant change in its pretrial justice system by introducing what has come to be known as the "zero bail" policy. 

This policy is a radical departure from the traditional cash bail system and fundamentally changes how the city's criminal justice system handles pretrial detention for most offenses. 

Zero Bail Policy in Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County significantly changed the justice system by implementing a "zero bail" policy.

This policy, which aims to address jail overcrowding and ensure equitable treatment for defendants regardless of their financial status, has sparked widespread discussion and debate. Thus far, legal attempts to postpone or reverse the policy have been unsuccessful.

However, nearly 30 Los Angeles County cities still fight to end the controversial zero bail policy. The policy went into effect in October 2023, ending the years-long standard of setting cash bail amounts for defendants based on the severity of their crime. 

The LA County cities pursuing a lawsuit designed to block the policy and implementation of the new bail schedule include Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Spring, Vernon, and Whittier. 

Many critics of this old process claim it favors rich people and does little to protect public safety. 

The new policy eliminates the cash bail system for all but the most severe crimes. It signals a significant change in how the court system deals with arrested people and how long they stay in custody. The zero bail applies to misdemeanors and specific non-violent felonies.

What Is the Zero Bail Policy? 

The zero bail system, called “Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols (PARP)” by the Los Angeles Superior Court, essentially eliminates the existing cash bail system for all but the most serious crimes. Most people who are arrested for non-violent or non-serious offenses will either be:

  • Cited and released in the field or
  • Booked and released at a police or sheriff's station and
  • Ordered to appear in court on a specific date for arraignment after they are formally charged with a crime.

Any arrestees believed to present a heightened threat to the public or be a flight risk will be referred to a magistrate judge, who will review the case and determine whether the person should be held in custody pending arraignment or released under restrictions such as electronic monitoring.

After someone is charged and appears in court for arraignment, the judge could change or revoke a defendant's release conditions.

This new system is partially a result of long-held criticism that cash bail favors wealthy people who can afford to pay for their freedom, even when charged with the most severe crimes.

A primary criticism was that low-income people would be forced to stay behind bars for lesser offenses. The new system is based not on cash but on the risk an offender presents to public safety or might fail to appear in court. 

Preliminary Arrangement Release Protocol

Los Angeles initially implemented a zero bail policy during the COVID-19 pandemic to mitigate jail overcrowding at a time when being incarcerated presented an increased health risk. Those provisions expired in July 2022. 

Zero-bail reinstatement has since emerged in response to longstanding concerns over the bail system's fairness and impact on communities.

As noted, the official name of the zero-bail system is the Preliminary Arrangement Release Protocol or PARP. Under these protocols, bail is set at $0 for most misdemeanors and specific non-violent felonies, enabling individuals accused of these crimes to be released from custody without posting bail pending their trial.

The intention is to prevent the pretrial incarceration of individuals solely because they cannot afford bail, thereby promoting a more equitable justice system. The policy includes exceptions for charges involving:

This ensures that individuals accused of these offenses are not automatically eligible for zero bail release. Instead, these cases are referred to a magistrate judge for review before deciding whether to impose bail. The decision-making process also considers the accused's criminal history and the potential risk they might pose to public safety.

What Are the Arguments for the Zero Bail Policy?

Los Angeles is not the first community to introduce significant bail reform policies, and zero bails has been a point of contention for many years. The following are some common arguments:

  • Critics argue that it may lead to an increase in crime rates and pose a risk to public safety and that it may disproportionately affect marginalized communities, who are often the victims of these crimes.
  • Proponents, on the other hand, argue that this policy helps to address systemic inequalities, citing that most incarcerated defendants are simply too poor to post bail. They claim the policy ensures that justice is based on an individual's actions rather than their financial status.

As noted, twenty-nine cities in LA County have launched a legal battle against the policy, petitioning for an injunction to postpone its implementation. 

Thus far, the courts have denied their bid to stop the policy on the grounds that they did not provide sufficient evidence to show that the policy would cause harm. However, at the time of this writing, the battle is not yet over; the judge has given time for the petitioners to amend their filings and try again.

What are the Initial Impacts of Zero Bail?

Within a few weeks of zero bail going into effect, the courts released preliminary numbers that seem to show the new protocols are having the intended effect. According to the data, which included more than 5000 cases:

  • 40% were deemed ineligible for zero bail.
  • Less than 3% of defendants released had re-offended while out on release,
  • More than half of those re-arrested had posted bail before release. 

These findings suggest that concerns over increased crime rates may be unfounded.

What are the Current Implications for Accused Individuals?

Suppose you have recently been accused of a crime in Los Angeles. In that case, the zero bail policy may present an opportunity to secure pretrial release without financial burden, allowing you to better prepare for defense, maintain employment, or support your family while awaiting trial. 

This change aims to foster a more just and humane approach to criminal justice, recognizing the principle of "innocent until proven guilty."

At the same time, zero bail is not a "blanket policy," meaning you must be deemed eligible for release with no cash bail. This is not just based on the crime you're charged with but also on factors such as your prior record, potential flight risk, and potential for violence

A skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can give you the best chance of being deemed eligible for zero bail release. Contact our law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, CA.

Related Content:

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

We speak English, Russian, Armenian, and Spanish.

If you have one phone call from jail, call us! If you are facing criminal charges, DON'T talk to the police first. TALK TO US!

Anytime 24/7