In Central Illinois the Lovelace case was big news. Some of you may have even followed it closely as it made its way through the courts and Mr. Lovelace hired different attorneys. In 2014 in Adams County, Illinois, Mr. Curtis T. Lovelace, a local lawyer, was charged with First Degree Murder. Mr. Lovelace spent 22 months in jail and after his first trial ended in a mistrial, his family and friends were able to post the $350,000.00 in bond that had been set in his case and in June 2016 he was released on bond on electronic monitoring. In March 2017, Mr. Lovelace was found not guilty and he was released from bond and electronic monitoring. Unfortunately for Mr. Lovelace, however, his legal nightmare was not over. There was still the issue of the 10% fee which is customarily kept by the Clerk whenever bond is posted in any case. Because Mr. Lovelace had posted $350,000.00 in his case, 10% was $35,000.00 which is obviously well more than was needed to administer electronic monitoring from June 2016 until March 2017 while he was on pre-trial release. Judge Hardwick ordered that the Clerk retain that 10% and in addition ordered that the Adams County Clerk could retain an additional fee the electronic monitoring from June 2016 to March 2017 meaning that the Adams County Clerk kept more than $40,000.00 from an individual whom a jury determined was not guilty of the crimes the State had charged him with.
In May 2018, in People v. Lovelace, the 4th District Appeals Court agreed and held that the trial judge had not abused his discretion in ordering 10% of the bond money be paid to the Circuit Court Clerk. The 4th District reasoned that the trial court had not abused his discretion because he had outlined his reasoning in his order and made clear that he was aware that he could order less be paid to the Clerk. Further, the 4th District held that Mr. Lovelace had forfeited certain arguments about deducting the electronic monitoring fees from the 10%. The 4th also held that Mr. Lovelace’s constitutional rights were not violated by awarding the Circuit Clerk such a hefty fee. In part, the 4th reached this conclusion because the bond fee was not imposed as a price for the acquittal but was a fee imposed for all individuals who took advantage of the bail bond statute to secure their pre-trial release.
This seems somewhat contrary to the recent push for Criminal Justice reform nationally and to the bail reform that was just implemented in Illinois in January 2018 (725 ILCS 5/110-5). The 4th District’s reasoning tends to discourage the posting of large bond payments even when the funds can be amassed as acquittal does not appear to weigh in favor of returning those funds even when to award them to the county clerk amounts to a windfall for the clerk. In Mr. Lovelace’s case third parties posted his bond. But how willing are third parties going to be to post such large bonds if they know it is likely that county clerks are going to swallow up tens of thousands of dollars in addition to whatever actual fees other county offices incur in administering home confinement even after the individual has been acquitted? While steps in the right direction are being made for individuals charged with crimes, there is still much work to be done to make sure that individuals are not burdened further financially once they have been acquitted of the crimes they have been accused of committing. Innocent individuals should not have the financial misfortune of having to support the county clerk’s office after having suffered through the nightmare of being wrongfully accused.