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Sheriff has booked, released nearly half of those arrested since coronavirus emergency order
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Sheriff has booked, released nearly half of those arrested since coronavirus emergency order

Nearly half of those arrested by Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies since an April 6 statewide emergency order was issued to control the spread of COVID-19, have been released with citations instead of spending time behind bars.

The California Judicial Council issued the set of emergency rules that includes one ordering zero bail amounts for people arrested for certain felonies and misdemeanors, forcing deputies to release them as soon as they are booked. 

The rule, specifically designated rule No. 4, sets a bail amount of $0 for all felonies and misdemeanors, and even some probation violations, with the exception of "serious" crimes. 

Exceptions include, among others, crimes such as violating protective orders, looting and violent crimes. 

The council's orders followed an emergency order by Superior Court Presiding Judge Michael Carrozzo that suspended most hearings, including for bail, and closed most courtrooms. 

Out of 182 people who were booked into the Main Jail from April 7 to 19, 90 were cited, then released, including 34 from North County, according to logs. 

Of those who were cited and released, 39 were booked, cited and released based on emergency rule No. 4 — including 13 from North County. 

The citations issued under the emergency rule are for crimes for which a suspect would normally spend time in jail including auto theft, illegal possession of firearms, failure to appear for court and certain warrants. 

The Sheriff's Office had a similar practice of booking then releasing suspects even before the emergency rule but for lesser crimes, according to Sheriff's spokeswoman Raquel Zick. 

When a person is arrested, they're still taken to the Main Jail on Calle Real for the booking process, which includes getting fingerprinted and their picture taken, then released, according to Zick. 

Even if a suspect is arrested in Santa Maria, they're driven one hour south to the jail and booked, Zick said. 

After the booking, an arrestee is released with a citation, which is essentially a promise to appear in court. 

The emergency rule also has significantly reduced the jail population. 

Currently, the jail has 591 inmates in custody, which is the lowest since the 1970s, according to Zick. 

Coronavirus Series: Local impact and reaction to COVID-19 on the Central Coast

We are working hard to get answers about the impact and reaction to the coronavirus in Santa Barbara County, this is a collection of those stories. Do you have a question about coronavirus in Santa Barbara County? The Santa Maria Times news staff will work to answer your questions. Post them to our Facebook page, or email MCooley@SantaMariaTimes.com.  You can support the work of local journalists working hard in your hometown by signing up for a News+ Membership online

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