New law modifies bail bond procedures in Illinois

One of the oldest procedures in criminal law is the cash bail bond, the procedure in which a judge orders a suspect held in custody unless they can post a bond in an amount specified by the court. The bond is posted as a condition of the suspect being released from custody. If the suspect leaves the jurisdiction or fails to appear in court when required, the cash posted to obtain release is forfeited to the state. While all cash bonds must be reasonable in their amount and terms, the procedure has a great deal of inherent unfairness, especially for those of little economic means. In its last session, the Illinois legislature passed a law that significantly changes the procedures for imposing cash bonds on non-violent offenders.

Perhaps the law’s most striking feature is the requirement that a criminal defense lawyer appear to represent the suspect in the bond hearing. The law is intended to allow the release of defendants without requiring a bond if (a) the alleged crime is non-violent, (b) the defendant is not likely to flee, and (c) the defendant does not pose a reasonable threat to the community. Courts are now looking for other, non-monetary conditions that can be imposed on a suspect.

Most county attorneys in Illinois realize that the presumption is now for what are called “recognizance bonds,” that is, bail conditions that depend upon the agreement of the defendant to accept certain conditions. These conditions may include electronic home monitoring, curfews, drug counseling, stay-away orders and in-person reporting. Those arrested on nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies are more likely to be released on recognizance bonds.

Anyone facing one or more non-violent criminal charges may wish to consult a criminal defense attorney for advice on being released from custody upon posting a recognizance bond and on the factual and legal aspects of the charges that have been filed.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, “Illinois courts adjusting to state’s new bail reform law,” Feb. 12, 2018