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Zero-bail policy instituted during pandemic to end at San Diego County jails

A policy that reduced certain misdemeanor offenses to zero-bail throughout the San Diego County jail system and was instituted to reduce the overall jail population during the pandemic will be rescinded as of Sunday, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said Friday.

The emergency bail modification enacted in early 2020 allowed those arrested for certain minor crimes such as drug possession or petty theft to avoid custody, while those already in jail for those offenses and with no other pending cases were released on their own recognizance.

According to a sheriff's department statement, a "significant decrease" in the county jail system's COVID-19 cases played a large role in a San Diego Superior Court order rescinding the zero-bail policy. Starting Sunday, those charges that qualified for zero-bail will have set bail amounts imposed again. Those amounts will be based on those outlined in the San Diego Superior Court Bail Schedule.


The sheriff's department said the change "is likely to increase population numbers in the San Diego County jails."

While the zero-bail policy will be rescinded, a recent California Supreme Court ruling which holds that courts must consider an individual's ability or inability to pay when considering bail remains in place. The Humphrey decision holds that judges must mainly weigh a pre-trial detainee's dangerousness and risk of flight when ruling whether they should remain in custody.

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