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A Personal View of California’s Bail Reform

This problem of locking people up before trial is personal to me.

Ten years ago, I was falsely accused of a crime, and I spent a night in jail based on one person’s word. I had committed no crime, but I was booked for and charged with felony domestic violence, and I had to take the case to trial to defend myself. The experience changed my life.

The short story is that I bailed out the next day and was acquitted at trial. But for an entire year before the trial, I stood accused of a violent crime, and I learned what it’s like to be a defendant.

That first night, however, I learned what it was to be caged. I slept on a concrete slab. I huddled inside the sleeves of my t-shirt because it was cold, and I hadn’t dressed for the occasion. I used a roll of toilet paper for a pillow because there was nothing else, and I don’t remember if I used the toilet, but I know I didn’t want to because there was urine and feces all over the floor.

Looking around, you saw nothing but walls and plaster. The only window to the outside world was a small, thick pane of glass next to the door. Through it, you could see the sheriff’s deputies walk the floor, but they wouldn’t even look at you when you rapped on the glass or called out to ask them something. You were confined and completely cut off from the rest of the world.

I was desperate to get out.

Given the choice between spending another day there or posting a $50,000 bond, we couldn’t post that bond fast enough. Even though it meant paying a $5,000 premium, out of pocket and through the nose.

So when I think of the new bail law, I can’t help but think of my sitting in that cell for at least another night while the case was reviewed and someone decided whether I was okay to release, or not.

The law still may be a step in the right direction, but God help you if you’re hooked up on a Friday in many cases. And in all cases, get the best representation you can so you won’t have to spend another night in jail.

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