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Troubling Numbers Lead to New Bail Law in Illinois

 Posted on July 12, 2017 in Criminal Defense

Cook County criminal defense attorneyDid you know that in 2015, more than 1,000 individuals at the Cook County Jail spent more time behind bars than they were actually sentenced to serve? These cases were not the result of clerical errors, lost files, or mistakes by jail staff. Many of them, rather, were the result of low-level criminal offenders not being able to afford cash bail. Instead of serving only their prescribed sentence, these inmates first sat in jail waiting for trial or for a plea bargain to finalize. Their crimes, in most cases, were so minor that their sentences were shorter than the amount of time they had already spent in jail.

Thanks to a new law signed last month by Governor Bruce Rauner, however, such cases should no longer be common in Cook County or anywhere else in the state. The measure, which took effect immediately, is being praised by criminal justice reform advocates as a significant step in the right direction.

Bail Basics

In many cases, monetary bail is understandable. It is intended to be an insurance policy of sorts that guarantees the presence of a criminal defendant at hearings and trial. The problem arises, however, when bail is set so high that the defendant cannot afford the 10 percent bond he or she would need to pay to avoid sitting in jail until trial. When the defendant is accused of a serious violent crime or presents a serious flight risk, a high bail amount may be reasonable. But, when the offense in question is low-level drug possession or something similar, monetary bail often means that low-income individuals have no choice but to wait in jail.

Making Improvements

Under the provisions of the new law, if a defendant for whom monetary bail has been set cannot come up with at least 10 percent, a new bail hearing must be held with seven days. For those who are indigent, a lowering of the bail amount may be in order. The law also clarifies that monetary bail is unnecessary for individuals charged with specific offenses including theft, DUI, drug possession, or prostitution. In-person reporting, electronic home monitoring, and other options can provide assurance that the defendant will appear as required.

Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle, as well as a justice reform proponents, are proud of the steps that have been taken and hope that the new law works as expected. “Our system must work equally for all our residents,” Governor Rauner said, “regardless of their income. We should be focused on putting people in jobs not jail.”

Have Bail Questions?

If you or a loved one has been arrested, an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney can help ensure you are treated fairly and in accordance with all applicable laws. Call Luisi Legal Group at 773-276-5541 for a free, confidential consultation today.







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