Prop. 25: Everything you need to know about ending cash bail in California

Proposition 25 would end cash bail in California.

Proposition 25 would decide whether California’s money bail system is unjust and should be replaced.

The issues

Proposition 25 would end cash bail in California.

The referendum qualified for the ballot as the bail industry attempts to overturn a 2018 state law that would replace the current cash bail system with one allowing pretrial release from jail based on a determination of public safety or a defendant’s flight risk. The law also would restrict pretrial detention for most misdemeanors.

The 2018 law is not yet in effect, pending the referendum vote, which comes more than two years after a bitter legislative fight that pitted the multibillion-dollar bail industry, criminal defense attorneys and some civil liberties advocates against Democratic leaders, including then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed the law, saying it will make sure “rich and poor alike are treated fairly.”


The new law requires people held in county jails on suspicion of most misdemeanors to be released within 12 hours. Those accused of other misdemeanors, including domestic violence or repeated failures to appear in court, would not be released automatically.

People held in county jails on felony charges and those not released automatically would be assessed for their risk of committing a new crime or failing to appear in court if released, using various factors to be decided by each county. Those judged to be a low risk would be released, although the court could order supervision by county probation staff.

The state of play

The issue of cash bail has gotten national attention in the presidential race and as part of the larger criminal justice reform movement. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have proposed ending money bail. President Trump has criticized Biden’s position.

Propostion 25 has seen a flood of contributions, including from Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft chief executive who owns the NBA’s Clippers, and his wife, Connie. The bail bond industry has contributed more than $9 million to fight it.

Reading list

California voters to decide whether to end cash bail system with Proposition 25

Explaining Prop. 25

Times columnist George Skelton on Prop. 25

The long-brewing showdown over cash bail in California

The California bail industry faces critical moment

Bail industry faces crisis amid criminal justice reform