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Fresno County does away with ‘zero-dollar’ bail rule

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Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni speaks about the repeal of the “zero-dollar bail” policy
Fresno County Sheriff’s Office

FRESNO, Calif. – The “zero-dollar bail” rule is no longer in effect in Fresno County. Local judgesvoted to repeal the rule in early January.

In a video statement posted to Facebook, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni said he and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp were both “happy and excited” about the decision.

“This is going to make our community safer because it's no longer on the books,” Zanoni said.

The emergency rule set bail for all misdemeanor and felony offenses at $0, with exceptions to serious and violent crimes. The rule has been in effect in Fresno County since early 2020.

Similar legislation was implemented throughout California in early 2020 to avoid overcrowding inmates in state prisons and county jails amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The rule was rescinded later that year, but allowed county courts to keep the emergency bail schedule if needed. Fresno County opted to keep the policy in place, until now.

The decision to rescind the policy was made after the sheriff’s office arrested a man who allegedly had more than 10 pounds of fentanyl in his car this week. The department says the suspect was released a few hours later because of the zero-bail policy.

Zanoni said removing the policy will prevent similar situations in the future.

“Individuals who are arrested are now going to be booked into jail and they're going to have to go through the regular normal process in order to get out,” Zanoni said.

An updated bail schedule went into effect soon after the ruling.

This story is part of the Central Valley News Collaborative, which is supported by the Central Valley Community Foundation with technology and training support by Microsoft Corp.

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Esther Quintanilla reports on diverse communities for KVPR through the Central Valley News Collaborative, which includes The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.