New bill aims to keep fugitives behind bars

COAST CITIES — Defendants who fail to show up at their court hearing or have a history of skipping out on their bail may face an automatic $100,000 bail after being brought back to the state, which stems from new legislation that aims to keep fugitives in jail and save taxpayers money.
Senate Bill 291 is currently on the Assembly desk after it passed the California State Senate on May 5.
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis sponsored the bill, and according to the DA’s office, in 2010 there were 78 people extradited back to San Diego County, and in 2009 that number was 94.
Dumanis said in a statement “It costs a lot of money to extradite defendants to face charges in San Diego County. Every time one of them posts bail and flees our jurisdiction prior to appearing in court, tax dollars are squandered.”
The bill was authored by State Senator Juan Vargas (D-40) as an “insurance policy” against an extradited defendant being released before that person is returned to court to complete the hearing process and face the original charges.
The extradition process to bring a defendant back ranges from $3,000 to $6,000, according to Vargas.
The new imposed bail would require a 48-hour notice of a bail hearing, excluding holidays and weekends, in order to deviate from the prescribed amount of $100,000, according to the bill.
Senate Bill 291 unanimously was passed by a vote of 40 to 0, and it is currently awaiting Assembly votes in its steps toward becoming a law.
Tanya Sierra, spokeswoman with the DA’s office, said the legislation has cleared a major hurdle but still has to go through the Assembly Public Safety Committee, then the floor before it reaches the governor’s desk.
The new proposed bail amount would be in addition to any bail that is already in place on the underlying charges, according to the bill.
In the most recent case of fugitive extradition, Patrick Caleb Land, 25, was extradited from North Carolina and booked into San Diego Central Jail on May 5, to face felony animal abuse charges that he pleaded not guilty to, which include the alleged beating deaths of his girlfriend’s three dogs, according to the district attorney’s office.
His bail was set at $250,000, but if Senate Bill 291 becomes law, an example of that situation would include the additional $100,000 for the failure to appear being stacked onto the $250,000, for a total bail amount of $350,000.

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