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Understanding the Illinois Bail System

 Posted on December 00, 0000 in Criminal Defense

bail, Kane County criminal defense attorneyBail is often mischaracterized on television and in the movies, as it seems as though a criminal defendant can simply pay some money and be released from all responsibility for their actions. A character wakes up in jail, for example, just in time for the guard to arrive saying that the character’s friend has posted bail. The episode or film then continues with no mention of the arrest again—case closed, right? Not even close.

In reality, there is virtually no situation in which posting bail will end criminal proceedings against a person charged with a crime. Bail is not a fine to be paid in lieu of a different criminal sentence. Instead, bail is intended to help ensure that a criminal defendant responds as required and that he or she is afforded the due process of law.

After an Arrest

When a person is arrested for a criminal offense, he or she has the right to a preliminary hearing, in most cases, to determine if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed. Depending on when a person is arrested, getting him or her in front of a judge may take several days or even weeks. In many cases, the defendant will waive the preliminary hearing, but he or she still has the right to a trial. Thanks to overloaded court dockets, a trial may not be possible for a number of months. In the meantime, what happens to the suspect?

Depending on a number of factors, including the severity of the crime in question, the person’s prior history, his or her standing in the community, and his or her financial situation, the court has several options. The person may be released on his or her own recognizance, which means that the defendant is fully aware of the charges and he or she agrees to attend all future proceedings as required. Defendants may also be placed on house arrest, which requires the person to wear an ankle bracelet that contains a monitoring device. The judge may also set bail, which could include cash payments or liens against the defendant’s property. Finally, the defendant may be required to stay in jail until his or her trial if the crime is particularly heinous or the judge determines that releasing the suspect presents a serious risk of flight or other danger to the community.

New Law Emphasizes Monetary Bail Alternatives

Over the last several decades, there has been growing concern that monetary bail has a disproportionate effect on the financially underprivileged. A low-income criminal defendant, advocates claim, is much more likely to sit in jail prior to trial because he or she does not have the resources to afford bail. This reality has also led to municipal and county jails overloaded with inmates who are waiting for trial or have yet to be sentenced.

Illinois lawmakers addressed these concerns earlier this year by passing a bipartisan measure that offers better bail considerations for low-income defendants charged with non-violent crimes. Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill this month, making Illinois the largest state with a presumption against monetary bail. Curfews, in-home monitoring, and in-person check-ins with a probation-type officer provide alternatives and are expected to be used as appropriate. Judges may still impose financial bail terms, but only after careful consideration of the entire situation.

Call Us for Help

If you or a loved one has been arrested and has a bail hearing upcoming, an experienced Elgin criminal defense attorney can help. Contact our office today and get the guidance you need during a difficult time. Call 847-488-0889 for a free consultation.


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