Santa Clara County

Superior Court Extends Emergency Bail Schedule as COVID-19 Surges in Jails

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Santa Clara County's Superior Court has extended the emergency bail schedule as COVID-19 case counts remain at an all-time high in county jails, officials announced Friday.

The Superior Court bench voted Tuesday to issue the order, which will expire June 30. The order requires that bail be set at $0 for all misdemeanor and felony offenses, with exceptions for specific offenses listed in the order.

The purpose of the emergency bail schedule is to limit COVID-19 transmissions. Without the order, individuals arrested and held in pretrial custody may be subject to close confinement in county jails. Instead, the order allows eligible individuals to wait for their trial outside of jail.

"Our Court shares in our community's concerns about transmission of the coronavirus," said Presiding Judge Theodore C. Zayner. "We know that groups of people in close confinement increases the potential for transmission, including within the jails and among prisoner populations."

The decision to extend the zero-bail policy comes as the county's inmate population faces its highest COVID-19 positivity rate and ends a nine-day hunger strike to demand better safety protocols in the jails.

As of Jan. 18, there were 107 active cases. A week earlier, on Jan. 11, county jails had the highest case count with 127 cases. The last outbreak was in August, where the highest case count was 90 inmates.

The court still has the discretion to deny bail, set a higher bail for any offense and/or set conditions of release deemed appropriate for any offense. The discretion remains in the hands of the judicial officer who is reviewing the case, "with due consideration of public safety and health concerns," court spokesperson Benjamin Rada said.

The order expires on June 30 but can be amended or repealed by the court if necessary.

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