Could Illinois end its cash bail system?

One aspect of the nationwide discussion over criminal justice reform is the bail system. When someone is arrested for most serious charges, the judge has the power to order them held in jail until they pay a certain amount of money.

Often, the level of bail the judge sets is more than the defendant can pay. They are forced to stay in jail until their case is resolved. According to the Coalition to End Money Bonds, thousands of people in Illinois’ jails are in jail because they cannot afford bail. Remember, they have been charged with crimes, not convicted.

Lawmakers meet on the possibility of ending cash bail

After the governor indicated he supported ending cash bail in Illinois, the state Senate’s Criminal Law and Special Committee on Public Safety recently held hearings on the matter. The testimony in support noted the effect expensive bail can have on the freedom of low-income people. Speaking against reform, a circuit court judge said cash bonds work to keep dangerous people off the streets and motivates defendants to show up for court.

Bail reform from 2017

Actually, Illinois lawmakers reformed the bail system not too long ago. In 2017, the General Assembly passed a law that created the presumption that most people charged with nonviolent offenses would be released from jail without having to post bond. However, it also requires bail for many serious charges, as long as the defendant’s inability to post bail was not the only reason they are being held in jail.

If you have been arrested, you have the right to have an attorney representing you at every stage of the criminal justice process, including at the bond hearing. An experienced criminal justice lawyer will make the best possible argument in favor of zero or low bail.