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Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero May 26, 2023

Social media post misleads with Los Angeles County list of ‘zero-bail’ policy exceptions

If Your Time is short

  • The screenshot shows exceptions to Los Angeles County’s zero-bail policy — charges for which people would be required to post bail — not offenses on which people would be released with zero bail.

  • The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said May 24 that the zero-bail policy does not apply to serious or violent offenses.

A "zero-bail" policy in Los Angeles County took effect May 24 as part of a class action lawsuit, which means people arrested for nonviolent, low-level offenses would not be required to post bail.

But some social media users misrepresented what that will look like. A May 24 Instagram post showed a screenshot that listed crimes including human trafficking, sexual battery, spousal rape, child abuse and domestic violence. The caption said, "Ok boys and girls or he she they, let the craziness begin, this is a list of (non) violent crimes in LA that people will be set free on as of today, what are your thoughts."

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The offenses listed in the Instagram post are exceptions to the zero-bail policy. In other words, they are charges for which people would be required to post bail — not charges for which people would be released with zero bail.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a May 24 statement that the zero-bail policy does not apply to serious or violent offenses, including crimes of violence, sexual offenses, domestic violence and offenses involving weapons.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, California set bail at $0 for most misdemeanor and lower-level felonies to ease crowding in jails. The statewide policy ended in June 2020, but counties had the option to continue the policy. 

The text in the post’s screenshot came from Los Angeles County’s emergency bail schedule — or the zero-bail policy — that was upheld after the statewide policy ended. This was reflected in "modifications" to the bail policy issued in June 2020 and October 2020

Those documents say, "As a rule, the bail for all infraction, misdemeanor, and felony offenses will be set at $0, with the exception of the offenses listed below." It then lists misdemeanor and felony exceptions. The text in the screenshot comes from Pages 3 and 4, items 6 through 19, which are listed under "felony exceptions." 

In the case of felony exceptions, the document says, "bail for the offenses … shall be set within the discretion of the bench officer," using the 2020 Felony Bail Schedule as a guide. When setting the bail, the document says, the bench officer would consider the case’s facts, the risk to public safety and the previous COVID-19 emergency goal of reducing the jail population.

Los Angeles County’s pandemic-era "zero-bail" policy expired July 1, 2022. It was reinstated May 24 after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff issued a May 16 ruling in a class action lawsuit that enforcing the bail policy against poor people who were detained in jail is a "serious constitutional violation."

Riff issued a preliminary injunction that effectively reinstated the October 2020 version of the county’s zero-bail policy.

We rate the claim that a list shows crimes in Los Angeles that "people will be set free on as of today" False.

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Social media post misleads with Los Angeles County list of ‘zero-bail’ policy exceptions

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