Bail Reform in Illinois

Illinois has finally (effective January 1, 2018) reformed its law regarding the setting of bail in criminal cases.  The goal of this reform is to curtail the practice of holding defendants in custody for lengthy periods of time simply because they cannot afford to come up with the money to pay for their pre-trial release.  But what does this mean for individuals charged with a crime central Illinois who are seeking pre-trial release?  And how can an experienced lawyer help?

Having an experience attorney from the outset of your criminal case allows a defendant to begin presenting the defense of himself/herself from the very initial appearance.  An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to help the client navigate the bail/bond system and present the most important information to the court so that the most favorable bail conditions can be set from the beginning.

As an initial matter, when examining the new bail statute in Illinois, it is important to note that the legislature has divided offenses into two categories.  The list of Category A Offenses is lengthy and consists of Class X, Class 1, and Class 2 felonies as well as some Class 3 and 4 felonies as specifically outlined in the statute.  Category B Offenses include: business offenses, petty offenses, Class A, B, and C misdemeanors, and Class 3 and 4 felonies unless otherwise specified by the statute.  Regardless of whether an individual falls into Category A or Category B, the statute directs that there is a presumption that bail conditions shall be non-monetary and that the court shall impose the least restrictive conditions or combination of conditions to protect the integrity of the proceedings.  The statute also provides that if an individual is unable to obtain counsel for the initial appearance, a public defender or licensed attorney shall be appointed to represent the arrested individual.  This means that every individual will be given an opportunity to present their case for pre-trial release to the judge, through an attorney, from the very first time they appear in court instead of having to wait weeks or months as was previously the case.

The category distinctions are important because if a court imposes monetary bail on an individual charged with a Category B offense, 725 ILCS 5/110-6(a-5), requires that the individual be brought back before the court at the next available court date or 7 days from the date that bail was set (whichever is earlier) for rehearing on the amount or conditions of bail or release pending further court proceedings.  Additionally, the court may reconsider conditions of release for any person whose inability to post monetary bail is the sole reason for their continued pre-trial incarceration – this includes individuals in custody for Category A offenses.  What this means for our clients, especially those in Category B, is that they will be able to continue their lives – keep their jobs, support their families – while aiding their counsel with their defense.  Prior to this it was not uncommon for an individual charged with a Category B offense to take whatever the State offered at the first appearance in order to get out of jail so that they could return to their jobs and care for their families.  This new rule makes it so that individuals can have time to prepare and present a meaningful defense to the charges against them without having to languish in custody simply because they do not have the means to post bond while awaiting their trial date.

In fact, the statute itself discourages the courts from placing a burdensome bail requirement on Category B defendants (so that hopefully they can avoid the process of being continually brought back for review), by establishing a $30.00 per day deduction from any monetary bail set on the Category B defendants for every day that they are incarcerated.  Thus, even if the court is being particularly firm in its determination to set a monetary bond on a particular defendant, the statute essentially provides that a Category B defendant will eventually “time out” and be released on pre-trial conditions because he/she will have earned enough monetary credit while sitting in custody to be released.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime in central Illinois, please contact our office as soon as possible and before the initial appearance if you can.  Our experienced attorneys will meet with you to discuss all the particulars of your case and all of your potential defenses.