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COVID-19 Bail Motions in the Age of Quarantine

marco-chilese-2sMbKyQvom4-unsplash-copy-200x300Both Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly have filed motions with the court for temporary release during the coronavirus outbreak citing health hazards. Weinstein and Kelly are both older with Weinstein being the more vulnerable of the two due to a recent surgery and more advanced age. Both were denied bail by the courts. 

But can others be expected to get their bail denied during the COVID-19 outbreak? 

The Virus is a Problem for Prisons

The courts have been shut down to essential functions only during the coronavirus outbreak, but the prisons and jails never shut down. This could ostensibly lead to arrests and detainments without charges being filed until the state of emergency is over. Meanwhile, prisons are breeding grounds for infectious disease, and it is not just the inmates who are affected, it is the corrections officers, too.

In light of this issue, the State of New Jersey is authorizing that all individuals held in county jails be released until the state of emergency has been called off. There is, however, one caveat. Prosecutors and the attorney general’s office can file objections for individual inmates who they perceive are a flight risk or a danger to the community.

There are two pressures at play working antagonistically. Firstly, the courts and government owe a duty to the community to keep them safe from potentially violent criminals. On the other hand, the courts and government do not want to cause virus cases to spike potentially taking beds away from those who need them.

Here in Cook County, criminal defense attorneys are working with an expedited bond for inmates who are elderly, pregnant, have asthma, have diabetes, or are otherwise in the risk group for COVID-19. Also included are inmates who were arrested for nonviolent offenses, misdemeanors, and those who received bail but were unable to pay. 

In addition to freeing those who are either in the risk pool or are not considered threats to flee or harm others, judges are available for bond hearings seven days a week to hear bail requests and defense attorneys are allowed to waive appearances to promote social distancing. 

Judges are now hearing dozens of bail motions and not requiring attorneys to file written motions. 

Cook County Inmates Contract Coronavirus

As of March 30, 134 Cook County inmates had contracted the virus. 20 jail staff members also fell ill with the disease. This is not much less than the numbers that we are seeing at Rikers Island. This led to a sense of urgency that the situation in the jails must be controlled to the extent possible which is in line with the goals of social distancing and the quarantine. 

It also means that those who commit crimes during the quarantine can be held indefinitely if they are considered a flight risk or a threat. So, it is not a great time to commit a crime.

Talk to a Cook County Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing charges during the coronavirus outbreak, you need an attorney who can expedite your bond process. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to learn more about how we can help.

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