Deciding a legal issue that could become moot next year in a case that is already moot as to the party involved, the Supreme Court today holds that paying bail is not necessarily enough for a defendant to get and stay out of jail.  The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Ming Chin in In re Webb states that a superior court has “authority to impose reasonable conditions related to public safety on persons released on bail.”

In Webb, the defendant, besides posting a $50,000 bond, was required to waive her Fourth Amendment right to be free of warrantless or unreasonable searches.  The Supreme Court did not, however, pass on the propriety of that specific condition because the issue is moot as to the defendant, who has already pleaded guilty.  The court also recognized that the general legal issue it resolves today, although important now, will itself be mooted by landmark pretrial detention legislation Governor Jerry Brown signed last August, if the new law survives a referendum vote next year.

Webb is the first of three pending, closely watched bail cases to be decided.  But it expressly leaves unanswered some big questions, like “the propriety of requiring bail as a condition of release” or the validity or application of the new statutory pretrial detention scheme.  Those issues might be reached in the other two cases, In re Humphrey and In re White, which will take a while, because the court has not yet even sent out an oral argument letter in either.

Resolving a case law conflict, the court reverses a divided decision of the Fourth District, Division One, Court of Appeal, and it approves of a 2005 First District, Division Three opinion and a 2003 Second District, Division Seven opinion.