Social media post misleads with list of exceptions to Los Angeles County’s “zero deposit” policy

Los Angeles County enacted a “zero bail” policy in a class action lawsuit on May 24, meaning individuals arrested for nonviolent, minor crimes are not required to post bail.

However, some social media users have the wrong idea of ​​what that will look like. A May 24 Instagram post featured a screenshot detailing crimes such as human trafficking, sexual violence, spousal rape, child abuse and domestic violence. The caption read: “Okay lads and gals or them let the madness begin this is a list of (non) violent crimes in LA people will be released for starting today what do you think?”

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

The offenses listed in the Instagram post are exceptions to the zero deposit policy. In other words, these are charges for which people would be required to post bail, not charges for which people would be released without 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 crimes, including violent crimes, sex offenses, domestic violence and gun crimes.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, California imposed a $0 bail on most misdemeanor and lower-order felonies to reduce prison overcrowding. The statewide policy ended in June 2020, but counties had the option to continue with the policy.

The text in the post’s screenshot is from the Los Angeles County Contingency Deposit Plan — or Zero Deposit Policy — which was maintained after the end of the statewide policy. This was reflected in “changes” to the deposit policy enacted in June 2020 and October 2020.

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These documents state, “Generally, bail is set at $0 for all violations, misdemeanors, and felonies except for the felonies listed below.” Exceptions for misdemeanors and felonies are then listed. The text in the screenshot is taken from pages 3 and 4, points 6 to 19, listed under ‘Crime Exceptions’.

In the case of felony exceptions, the document states: “Bail for the felonies … is at the discretion of the court officer,” using the 2020 felony bail schedule as a guide. In setting bail, the document said, the judge would consider the facts of the case, the risk to public safety and the previous COVID-19 emergency goal of reducing the prison population.

Los Angeles County’s pandemic-era “zero deposit” policy expired on July 1, 2022. It was reinstated on May 24 after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff issued a May 16 ruling in a class-action lawsuit that would require enforcement of bail policies against poor people held in prison a “serious violation of the Constitution”.

Riff issued an injunction effectively reinstating the county’s zero deposit policy in the October 2020 version.

We find false the claim that there is a list of crimes in Los Angeles for which “people will be released starting today.”