The Tolls of Justice

I received a text last Friday from American Surety Company bail agent and longtime friend Harley Esparza about the cost of tolls.  Harley operates out of Corona, California.  He was sitting in “working mans” traffic while those with deeper pockets were paying the going rate of $20.85 to take the express lane home on a busy Friday afternoon.  Apparently, those who can afford it pay as much $90 in tolls during a daily commute.  That can amount to an annual toll tab of more than $12,000, too much for Harley, too much for most.

On July 1, a new gas tax of 1.9 cents went into effect in California.  This may not seem like much but California’s gas prices are routinely a dollar higher than that of the rest of the nation.  The revenue generated from this tax is earmarked to help cover the costs of rebuilding that state’s roads and bridges.  Costs that are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Amid the high tolls and gas prices there is an assemblyman and senator who would like to add an additional financial burden on California taxpayers by placing at their feet the cost of supervising criminal offenders released from jail pending trial.  Approximately one third of those arrested in California each year purchase a bail bond at their own expense.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Senator Robert Hertzberg introduce twin bills earlier this year that would remove the cost of supervising criminal defendants awaiting trial from the defendant’s themselves to California taxpayers.  Assemblyman Bonta’s version, AB42 failed to pass out of the General Assembly last month. However, Senator Robert Hertzberg’s version, SB10 is still alive.  SB10 passed out of the Senate last month and will be heard in the General Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday, July 11.

SB10 is being promoted as bail reform legislation when in actuality, it is just one more step in the systematic dismantling of California’s criminal justice system and the fundamental belief of holding criminal offenders accountable for their actions.  AB109, Prop. 47 and 57 have already gone a long way in making Californians less safe.

Fortunately, SB10 is not without opposition.  Judges, law enforcement, police organizations and crime victim groups all oppose SB10.  The General Assembly has already spoken on the existing language as AB42 and SB10 were identical.  So, SB10 will have to be heavily amended, if it has any chance of passing out of the General Assembly.

The bail industry opposes SB10 because it has been proven our industry does a better job getting defendants to court than does the government.  Additionally, the cost of bail is covered by the defendants and their families, not the taxpayers.

Instead of promoting more taxpayer funded financial aid to criminal offenders, Assemblyman Bonta and Senator Hertzberg should simply acknowledge the fact that life is full of inequities.  Being rewarded for bad behavior is not a constitutional right.   We are blessed to live in the United States where we enjoy freedoms and liberties that afford us the opportunity to better our situations.  Anyone who works hard and operates within the law can put themselves in a position where they too can afford to drive in the fast lane.  

Vote for accountability.  Vote NO on SB10!