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Articles Posted in Sentencing

While the media may have you believing that ending cash bail means allowing anyone charged with a crime to go free, the matter is not so simple or so haphazardly employed.

Imagine if you are charged with a crime you did not commit based on a witness misidentifying you. You don’t think it can happen to you? Well, it can. Now, if you have money, you just pay your way out of jail and wait for the charges to be dropped because the case is not strong enough. But what if you do not have the money to pay for the bail? You then have a choice. You can either plead guilty to the crime to get the matter settled and be on about your life, or you can fight the charges, stay in jail, and hope the system works the way it is supposed to. Since you have little faith in that happening for you, you end up taking a plea deal to get out of jail. In other words, the poor can be leveraged into plea deals simply to avoid being stuck in jail. 

Is that fair? Of course, not. While some folks want to make the rules fairer, others are convinced that society would fall apart if we did not leverage the poor into false confessions based on the deprivation of their freedom. 

According to a recent opinion piece by the Daily Mail, “woke” bail reform is putting murderers back on the streets of Chicago. This is not strictly true. In 2020, when the jails and prisons were overcrowded with suspects awaiting charges, it became more routine to release individuals on ankle monitors. However, it is true that reforms in the way we do bail are impacting how it functions and who qualifies.

To be sure, Illinois is not woke when it comes to bail reform. Some states have moved to do away with the cash bail system, and we will get into their reasons why below. However, Illinois is not one of them so the idea that Chicago is putting murderers out on the streets at a greater rate than say, New York or Los Angeles is false. One of the reasons why Chicago takes it on the chin when it comes to these sorts of accusations is that we have a large Black population, a history of political corruption, and a reputation for organized crime. However, we are no more woke than, say, Birmingham, AL when it comes to our bail system. 

COVID releases, overcrowding, and ankle monitors

Over the last year and a half (during the COVID pandemic) there has been a 30% increase in the use of ankle monitors to keep track of criminal defendants. The issue was related to the COVID pandemic and the ability of the prisons to keep prisoners safe from the infection. Prisons and jails tend to be rife with infections, and keeping infections at bay can be costly and difficult. Meanwhile, counties and prisons are responsible for inmates and can be held liable for failing to ensure their health and safety. 

During the pandemic, Cook County opted to place more individuals on ankle bracelets than keep them in holding centers. Many have been on ankle monitors for over a year while awaiting something to happen. Part of the problem is that those released on ankle monitors have already paid hefty bail prices meaning that they will be taxed doubly for the same crime. It is not surprising that the majority of those facing this problem are Black. However, a growing number of defendants on ankle monitors are also accused of violent crimes, occasionally murder. This ensures that no matter what side of the aisle you fall on, you can recognize the inherent shortcomings in this process.

Ankle Monitors, House Arrest, and County Jails

The officer is okay. He was shot in the vest. The woman who fired the bullets, however, was critically injured in the exchange of gunfire. She was charged with attempted murder, weapons crimes, and aggravated battery. On Monday, she accepted a plea for aggravated battery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Good behavior credits plus time served mean that she could be out in as little as four years. Had the defendant been convicted of attempted murder, she would have faced a minimum sentence of 26 years. 

What Happened?

Two plainclothes officers witnessed the defendant during a suspected drug deal. One officer called the defendant over for questioning. She immediately ran. The officer gave chase. When he was about to catch up with her, she turned around and shot him. The bullet penetrated a flashlight on his vest and then also penetrated the vest leaving a scar on his body near his heart. The officers returned fire but critically wounded the defendant who survived her injuries to stand trial. She was expected to plead innocent and then defend herself at trial, but a last-minute plea deal subverted the effort.

A Chicago man is facing federal charges after police allege he hijacked a car at gunpoint, crashed it on the South Side of Chicago, and fired a shot at police before being apprehended. In 2018, the feds announced that they planned on trying more carjacking cases in federal court. David Johnson is the lucky beneficiary of that initiative. He is the first man to face charges under the federal initiative. 

At the time of the carjacking, David Johnson was on supervised release after he was found guilty of weapons charges. The US Attorney told the press that would-be carjackers had better watch out, “Committing a senseless act of violence like carjacking will earn you a home in federal prison for a long time.”

The Carjacking

There has been a great deal of discussion recently over the role bail plays in American society. Political pundits who are rallying against bail reform cite instances of re-offense while the suspect is awaiting charges for another crime. Political pundits in favor of bail reform argue that the system is patently unfair and individuals charged with nonviolent crimes rot in jail for a year while the wheels of justice slowly turn.

Now, one charity is being scrutinized by the media after providing bail to inmates who then turned around and offended again.

Habitual Criminal Activity

robert-hickerson-38585-copy-200x30017-year-old Chastinea Reeves pleaded guilty to stabbing her own mother over 60 times. The girl was given a 45-year sentence for the slaying. Her mother, Jamie Garnett was found dead in her home. Reeves was 15 at the time of the murder and she was charged as an adult. The plea avoided the trial and a potential sentence of 65 years in prison had she been convicted of the murder. If she serves the full term, she will be 62 years old when she is released.

The state’s case appeared to the defense to be rock solid. The prosecution had the murder weapon with the victim’s blood on it and what they described as a “perfect” fingerprint. They also had two witnesses who were given plea deals and were willing to testify against Reeves at the trial.

Amber Alert Used to Apprehend Reeves

tertia-van-rensburg-37121-copy-300x224You have to be careful about accepting any kind of a plea. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Just ask Jussie Smollett. He may have gotten off with a slap on the wrist, but now the police department is suing him for money related to the investigation and the federal government still wants to press charges. The original sounded too good to be true, which outraged local politicians and law enforcement.

If you want to hear about an even worse deal, ask Terry Allen who was held behind bars for 32 years without ever being convicted or sentenced of a crime. Allen took was is known as a “civil commitment” plea deal in lieu of facing criminal charges on an alleged sexual assault. He was never sentenced to prison. He was never convicted of a crime. He spent 32 years behind bars.

Again, it sounded like a great deal. Allen was facing several years behind bars when prosecutors offered a plea in lieu of a criminal sentence to voluntarily submit himself to civil commitment. Civil commitment is held aside for those who are deemed a threat to themselves or others but also have serious mental illness. However, civil commitment allows for patients to be detained indefinitely pending the results of a psychiatric evaluation.

javier-villaraco-235574-copy-300x225Having a loved one incarcerated can cause a lot of strain on your relationship, whether you are married, dating, or even if you are divorced. Knowing how to deal with such a circumstance in Chicago can mean the difference between a stressful life and one that is a little bit easier to handle. Today, we will discuss how you can handle dealing with an incarcerated loved one so you can make the proper adjustments for yourself and your family.

Avoid Treating it as a Loss

One of the worst things you can do for yourself and for your loved one in jail is treat this as a loss. You did not lose your loved one. He or she is still alive. You can still talk on the phone, write letters, and physically visit him or her in prison. You cannot mourn this situation like you would the death of a loved one. There is one thing you must know: Others might not offer much support when a loved one is in jail like they would if your loved one had died.

ben-white-194220-copy-300x200Being charged with a crime brings a lot of stress and worry with it. You never know what will come of your case, especially if it goes to trial. Should the case go to trial and you are convicted of the crime, you will then need to attend a sentencing hearing in front of the judge. This is an important hearing because you are learning your fate. You will find out how long you will be sentenced to jail, if any fines will be levied, and if you can avoid any jail time. Here is what you can expect at a sentencing hearing.

The Length of the Hearing

For the most part, the sentencing hearing will not take very long. This is a process that should only last a handful of minutes. All the judge needs to do is read through the pre-sentence report that was created by the probation office. The judge will then listen to arguments made by the criminal defense attorney, the prosecutor, and sometimes the defendant and/or family members of the victim.

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