X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.


In one of her first chances to implement a promised get-tough approach to crime, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris hopes to make it harder for defendants charged with gun crimes to get out of jail.

Harris’ office is currently reviewing San Francisco’s bail schedule, comparing it with four other Bay Area counties with an eye toward serious and violent felonies where guns are used, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Russell Giuntini.

Though prosecutors may seek bail increases in other areas, “first and foremost we’re looking at guns,” Giuntini said. The office will also target crimes involving assault weapons.

Harris has mentioned the bail schedule in recent public appearances where she has stumped for the federal assault weapons ban and condemned the murder earlier this month of Officer Isaac Espinoza, who was allegedly shot with an AK-47.

The Espinoza case has brought the issue “to the forefront in terms of the public,” Giuntini said. But Harris’ office has been looking at higher bails as a way of addressing community violence since she took office, particularly given a rash of other murders in the Bayview neighborhood, he added.

“We’re trying to address a public safety issue,” Giuntini said. “We don’t want San Francisco to be a sanctuary for people who are hell-bent on violence.”

When the comparison with Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Contra Costa counties is completed, the office plans to present its findings to the court “and make our pitch,” Giuntini said.

He may try to align those efforts with the court’s annual review of the bail schedule, which is expected to conclude this summer.

Giuntini said he’s already found some significant disparities compared with neighboring counties.

For example, San Francisco’s schedule calls for $20,000 bail for possession of an assault weapon, while the schedule in Contra Costa County calls for $100,000, and in Alameda County, $50,000.

Defense attorneys say the bail schedule in San Francisco is plenty high. Some also questioned the legitimacy of comparing San Francisco bails with counties with less urban populations, or whether increases would impact indigent defendants disproportionately.

Increasing bail means increasingly jailing people of modest means, said criminal defense attorney Scott Sugarman, of San Francisco’s Sugarman & Cannon.

“These are people who are presumed to be innocent under the law, who have had no chance to present their side of the story,” Sugarman said.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi echoed Sugarman’s concerns.

“When you’re poor and you can’t afford bail, then there’s a great deal of pressure to plead guilty simply to get out of jail,” Adachi said.

Adachi also took issue with comparing San Francisco with other counties. “We don’t know what other counties are using to determine what a reasonable bail is,” he said.

And there is “no solid evidence” that lower bail levels act as a magnet for criminals, Adachi said.

“Most people don’t even know what the bail schedule is here. Should we surmise that people are coming to San Francisco to commit death penalty-eligible offenses because San Francisco doesn’t [pursue] the death penalty?” he added.

As it is, bail may “seriously overstate” the seriousness of a crime, Sugarman said. Police list charges that are used to figure bail for an arrestee, but the DA may decide to file fewer or lesser charges once they look at the evidence and circumstances, he said.

Defense attorneys have other concerns as well.

“Of course we don’t want bail increased, because the more it costs a client to get out of jail, the less he has to pay private counsel,” said one defense attorney who asked not to be named.

Under state law, superior court judges in each county adopt and annually revise a countywide bail schedule. Judge Mary Morgan, who supervises the criminal division, said she expects the court will conclude its annual review of the bail schedule around July 1.

Judges did an extensive review of the bail schedule in 2002 that included comparisons with neighboring counties, and increased bails in several areas, recalled Judge Cynthia Lee, who chaired the revision committee. Then-DA Terence Hallinan asked for some changes in the schedule regarding elder abuse crimes, she said.

“We took up [crimes] we felt were completely out of sync,” said Hallinan, now back in criminal defense practice. He added, “Now that I’m coming back as a private attorney, I’m kind of amazed at how high the bails are.”

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.