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Conditioning Freedom On Ability To Afford Bail: UNCONSTITUTIONAL

In re Humphrey Court: Supreme Court of California, Docket: S247278, Opinion Date: March 25, 2021. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that Petitioner was entitled to a new bail hearing, holding that the common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional. The trial court set Petitioner's bail at $350,000 without commenting on Petitioner's inability to afford bail. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus claiming that requiring money bail as a condition of release at an amount he could not pay was the functional equivalent of a pretrial detention order and requesting immediate release or a new bail hearing. The court of appeals reversed the bail order because the trial court failed to determine whether Petitioner could feasibly post bail. On remand, the superior court conducted a new bail hearing and ordered Petitioner released on various non-financial conditions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) where a financial condition is necessary, the court must consider the arrestee's ability to pay the stated amount of bail and may not detain the arrestee solely because the arrestee lacked the resources to post bail; and (2) Petitioner was entitled to a new bail hearing.

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