Illinois has officially become the first state in the country to eliminate cash bail. Proponents of the measure say that it punishes the poor unfairly. The Pretrial Fairness Act prevents judges from setting bail but gives them broader discretion to deny release to those accused of violent crimes. Those opposed to the measure included prosecutors and police officers who see it as being “soft on crime.”
The measure is seen as leveling the playing field for Black, Brown, and poor communities that can’t afford to pay their way out of jail even when they are not a risk to the community. A 2022 civil rights report on cash bail showed that, on average, Black arrestees are required to pay 35% more than their white counterparts. Latinos on average pay 19% more. Hence, the system was intrinsically racist and remains so in states that have not eliminated cash bail. An estimated 60% of defendants ended up in jail because they could not afford to post bail.
Critics of the measure believe that this will allow dangerous people back on the streets. Law enforcement and other critics of the measure believe that now that cash bail has ended, defendants have no incentive to return to court. This will end up creating a situation where they are searching for defendants who are let out of jail.
The Pretrial Fairness Act Ruled Constitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court
The measure was held up after law enforcement and prosecutors filed a case stating that elements of the Pretrial Fairness Act were unconstitutional. A district court agreed with the arguments and the Pretrial Fairness Act was held in limbo for months until the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the decision in a 5-2 ruling.
Analyzing the changes
Under the old system, a judge would set bail for a defendant who would have to pay a certain amount of money to be released from jail. If they didn’t have the money, they would stay in jail while their case played out. Their money being returned was contingent on them returning to court for their court appearances. There were three types of bail under the old system; An I-bond which is being released on your own recognizance meaning you don’t have to pay any money; a D-bond, in which the defendant has to pay 10% of the posted bail amount; and a C-bond which required the defendant to pay the full amount.
Now, if a judge rules that a defendant does not pose a serious flight risk or is a danger to the public, they can be released without posting any bail. Judges can still deny release for those accused of violent crimes such as first-degree murder, sex crimes, and more.
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David Freidberg represents the interests of Chicago defendants charged with serious crimes. Call our office today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your defense immediately.