Recently, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to end the practice of requiring arrested people to post bail money or stay in jail until their criminal charges are resolved. This landmark law could be a step toward making the state’s criminal justice system fairer, especially for low-income suspects.
How bail works in Illinois (for now)
Under the old system, which will continue until January 2023, the judge can rule that individuals charged with certain crimes, including things like drug trafficking, will have to post a certain amount of money with the court to be released from jail. The idea is to give the defendant a financial incentive to show up for trial or lose the bail they posted. Many times, the level of bail the judge orders is more than the defendant can afford.
Without being convicted of any crime, the defendant might be forced to languish behind bars for weeks, if not months. Meanwhile, they can lose their job and their home. Instead of focusing on working with their defense attorney to prepare a legal strategy, they must deal with living in an unpleasant and potentially dangerous institution, where they have few rights. For these reasons, many critics call bail a form of “poor people’s tax.”
Other states have recently considered reforming their bail systems, including New York, California and Alaska. But those efforts ultimately failed. For now, that will make Illinois the first in the nation to get rid of cash bail.
Beyond helping you arrange bail
Helping you post bail for yourself or a family member is just one of the services a defense lawyer can provide. Your attorney can also be in the room with you during police interrogations, speak with you confidentially about the charges and the evidence, and work to give you the best possible result to your case.