Don’t Bail Out There, Mr. Mayor

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and Tom Orloff, Alameda County’s top prosecutor are hoping to improve public safety by increasing the consequences for ex-cons caught carrying a gun — higher bail. Will this strategy work? Who knows? But if the county’s judges are willing to review the bail and sentencing guidelines for one felony offense, they may want to look at a few others as well.

Perhaps they could begin by explaining Section 219.1 of the penal code: throwing missile at common carrier with intent to wreck and without death. This crime brings $20,000 bail and a possible 2 to 6 years in prison. But what exactly does it mean?

The judges may also want to revisit a crime that probably went out of fashion around the time Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, Section 226: dueling resulting in death. It’s unlikely that a police officer would use this charge instead of murder in the event of a duel at high noon one day. But why should the dueling charge bring just 2 to 4 years in prison while first-degree murder gets you 25 to life and a possible death sentence?

Another oddity of note: Unlike some nearby Bay Area counties, Alameda County has established bail and sentencing guidelines for Section 182 (a)(6): conspiracy to commit any crime against the president, vice president, and others. In case you’re wondering, bail comes to $35,000 and a conviction can carry 5 to 9 years in the clink.

Matthew Hirsch


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