Amid a rash of violence in Fresno, Police Chief Andy Hall praised a recent decision from the Fresno courts to limit the availability of $0 bail for more criminal suspects.
The lead judges for Fresno County approved additional exemptions on Oct. 13 to the emergency bail rule — a state policy instituted to reduce jails populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hall has previously criticized the rule as one of the reasons violent crime has spiked in Fresno.
“Holding people accountable for their actions is a critical component of our criminal justice system,” Hall said in a news release Tuesday. “This decision by the Executive Committee of the Fresno County Superior Court is a step in the right direction. Our community has suffered enough and it’s time these violent offenders are removed from our streets.”
Six More Exemptions Made
In June, the executive committee listed 21 exemptions to the $0 bail rule. Last week, six more were added:
— Penal Code 30605: position of an assault weapon.
— Penal Code 32625: possession of a machine gun
— Penal Code 29805: prohibition on recently released felon from possessing a firearm.
— Penal Code 25400: Carrying a concealed weapon.
— Penal Code 25850: Carrying a loaded weapon in public.
— Health and Safety Code 11370.1: Possession of a firearm with drugs.
The committee also raised bail amounts for previously exempted crimes including felony evading arrest and four types of gang enhancements.
District Attorney Approves Court Action
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp approved the court’s action.
“Eliminating more crimes from $0 bail and increasing bail amounts for gun and gang crimes is an important public safety measure intended to protect our community by keeping dangerous offenders behind bars pending trial,” Smittcamp said in a news release.
“This is merely one step being undertaken to end the rampant gun fire, gang activity and senseless bloodshed in our community. Although the revisions occurred just last week, their positive impacts can already be seen as perpetrators arrested for these types of crimes are being held in custody, rather than returned to the streets within hours of their arrest.”
ACLU: Exemptions “Discriminatory”
Some civil rights groups say the bail exemptions would create more racial discrepancies, according to Yoel Haile, Criminal Justice Program Manager at ACLU NorCal.
“Imprisoning people before their trial simply because they can’t afford bail was always unjust and arbitrary, but with the pandemic, it has now become potentially life threatening. Jails and prisons are COVID hotspots that can easily spread to the full community,” Haile said. “We also know that many of the charges that the Fresno DA wants exempted are applied in racially discriminatory ways, meaning that this new bail schedule will most harm Black and brown community members.”