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Zero-Bail Protocol to Take Effect

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By Jorge Casuso

September 13, 2023 -- Starting next month, most suspects arrested in Santa Monica for non-violent felonies and misdemeanors will be released on the spot or immediately after booking without bail, police officials said Wednesday.

The new zero-bail protocol that will go into effect across Los Angeles County on September 1 applies to those arrested for "nearly all theft offenses and vehicle code violations," officials said.

It also applies to "other property crimes like vandalism, and some serious crimes that are deemed non-violent."

"In a smaller number of cases, suspects arrested for certain crimes that pose an increased risk to the public will be referred to an on-call magistrate, Officials said.

The magistrate "will have discretion to determine the appropriate release terms and conditions."

These cases include "offenses involving guns, sexual battery, crimes against children/elders and contact with minors with intent to commit a sexual offense."

Capital offenses -- including murder with special circumstances and limited felonies -- are not eligible for pre-arraignment release under the zero-bail protocol.

The new bail schedules for misdemeanors and non-violent felony crimes were approved by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County on July 18.

"A low-risk arrestee should not be held in jail simply because they cannot post the necessary funds to be released pending arraignment," said presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner.

"Instead, the protocols focus on an individual arrestee's risk to public and victim safety and the arrestee's likelihood of returning to court," Jessner said.

All police departments in LA County, including the Santa Monica Police Department, must comply with the terms of the zero-bail protocol, SMPD officials said.

Under the new protocol, for example, a person arrested for false imprisonment is eligible for book and release instead of facing a$50,000 bail under the current system.

While someone arrested for theft of an automobile is also eligible for book and release, instead of being held on $35,000 bail.

"While this represents a significant change in protocols for all law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County, the Santa Monica Police Department remains committed to the safety and security of our community," police said.

"We will not waiver in our commitment to safeguarding our residents, visitors, and business owners even while we work within the processes set forth by the Superior Court of Los Angeles County."

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