The coasts could not be more divergent right now on bail reform. Delaware Democrats, who enjoy a super-majority in the House of Representatives, passed Senate Bill 7, which requires cash-only bail to be posted a variety of serious offenses in order to be released. Governor John Carney immediately signed the bill into law on June 30, 2021.
US News and World Report summarized the bill as follows: “The bill establishes secured cash bail as the baseline to be used by judges in determining pretrial release conditions for defendants charged with any the specified offenses. Those offenses include the most serious violent felonies, as well as certain gun crimes, sex crimes involving children and certain domestic violence offenses.”
State Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha (D-Wilmington) said the bill will ease fears in his district and the city: "This individual is going to get right back out. So now we don't have individuals to step forward to be witnesses, we don't have individuals to step forward to give statements, to provide information that can help us solve crimes. It all goes to the same thing, the same just revolving door of individuals just repeatedly being released back into our community. This bill will address that."
In California, the legislature in response to a statewide crime wave is doing precisely the opposite with Senate Bill 262. Rather than finding crimes where Californians don’t want zero bail, instead the legislature is finding crimes where they are going to mandate zero bail and eliminate the discretion of judges. To top it off, the legislature has created an expanded right to an affordable bail in all crimes, further restricting the discretion of judges to hold people in jail pending trial.
As Senate Bill 262 advances to the Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing scheduled for July 13th, the California Legislature should take heed of the warning signs from other states reversing course on bail reform.