George Gascon began his term as DA last week and issued several controversial orders on his first day. Many of these orders appear to be at worst illegal and at best unwise. The most controversial was his order not to use the Three Strikes Law, even though the California Constitution and Penal Code require us to do so. That order remains in place.
But cracks are beginning to appear in the barrage of day one orders. Specifically, Gascon’s Special Directive 20-06 has just been walked back and qualified. This order directed prosecutors from requesting bail for any misdemeanor or felony, with the limited exception that we make seek bail on strikes offenses. In other words, bail is pretty much dead in LA.
This order didn’t last long, mostly because the people that wrote it don’t understand how criminal justice works. They forgot about arrest warrants. An arrest warrant is a complaint that is approved by a judge, and allows someone to be arrested for a crime. When they are arrested, they are held on bail and brought to court to face their charges.
The problem is, if you are not using bail, you can’t use arrest warrants. The courts will not issue arrest warrants without a bail amount. That’s because the arresting officer would have to immediately release the arrestee. This defeats the purpose of the warrant. “I’m arresting you!” would be followed immediately by “I’m releasing you!” and nobody would go to court.
Once this problem was brought to the new administration, the Interim Chief Deputy Joseph Iniguez sprang into action. You may have heard of Iniguez. He supported Gascon and contributed to his campaign. In return, he was made #2 at the office, even though he has virtually no experience. He has only prosecuted four felony trials, compared to hundreds by other deputies.
Iniguez partially reversed the earlier special directive. He reinstated bail for arrest warrants at $1. This will almost certainly not be enough for officers to retain custody of the arrestee. Many are predicting that bail will be back in full for arrest warrants. This may be the first of many corrections to day one policies opposed by prosecutors.