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New Bill Aims To Increase Bail Of Court Evaders

A bill by a local legislator that would add $100,000 to the bail of defendants who have previously failed to appear in court is one step closer to becoming law, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced today.

The state Senate unanimously passed SB 291 -- authored by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego -- by a 40-0 vote.

"This law will stop defendants from slipping out of custody and and save taxpayers thousands of dollars," said Dumanis, whose office sponsored the Senate bill. "It costs a lot of money to extradite defendants to face charges in San Diego County. Every time one of them posts bail and flees our jurisdiction prior to appearing in court, tax dollars are squandered."

Because bail is sometimes set at a low level, fugitives are able to bail out of jail and disappear before they are arraigned, Dumanis said. Criminals become fugitives for a second time, requiring law enforcement to track them down and extradite them again, placing an unnecessary financial burden on California counties, Dumanis said.

Under SB 291, bail would be set at $100,000 for a defendant who is extradited back to California to face original charges. The $100,000 would be in addition to bail already set on the underlying charges.

In those circumstances, a 48-hour noticed hearing would be scheduled to allow prosecutors the opportunity to inform the judge of the defendant's flight risk or to argue for higher bail.

The cost to extradite a defendant ranges from $3,000 to $6,000, depending on where they are finally located. The legislation essentially

provides an "insurance policy" against an extradited defendant being released before they are brought to court to face the original charges, according to backers.

The bill will now be heard by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

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