Home » Bay Area COVID-19 Emergency Rules Relating to Criminal Offenses
In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the California court enacted an Amendment to the California Rules of court on April 6, 2020. This amendment made several sweeping changes to Criminal cases including major changes to rules governing bail as well as those governing statutory periods to address various stages of a criminal case. These rules include a sunset provision which means they are in effect for a period of ninety days after the state of emergency is lifted.
Prior to this rule, each county was tasked with creating a bail schedule. The rule set bail for almost all offenses (including probation violations) at zero. While the rule sets out some exceptions, it is clear that the statutory intent, that Risk of Flight was essentially no longer a consideration in calculating a bail amount. The exceptions to zero bail are:
Bail for the above-listed offense will remain as set by the county schedule.
The emergency rules also allow for relaxation of the general rule mandating personal appearance in court. Each county was tasked with using technology to accommodate teleconference appearance. Alameda has now employed the use of BlueJeans, a software similar to Zoom. It appears Santa Clara is struggling to identify a single source for appearance, instead requirement Skype calls for some appearances and court call (telephone service) for others.
As stated, these rules have been interpreted differently in each of the bay area counties we serve. Several Bail motion in San Jose appeared to be focused on whether the new rules constitute “new circumstances” to warrant a bail hearing for those in custody prior to the order. We should note that several high profile cases in San Jose involved recently released inmates committing new violent offenses. Alameda and San Francisco counties have allowed wide releases to in-custody clients, opting to incarcerate only those who pose a severe risk to the community. San Mateo county remains an outlier in implementing an oppositional stance to the new rules governing bail while enjoying the obvious benefits of speedy trial right extensions.