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Cook County to Require that No Arrestee Held for Mere Inability to Afford Bail

A stack of money and gavel

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans has announced that the bail system for the Cook County Circuit Court will undergo a major overhaul. As of September 2017, Chief Judge Evans announced that no suspect will be held behind bars merely due to their inability to afford the bail set by the court. The reforms were announced weeks after a similar bill was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner which changes how bail is evaluated for criminal suspects statewide. The statewide changes entered into force immediately.

Method for imposing bail revamped

SB 2034, the bill which Gov. Rauner recently signed into law, was introduced as a way to reduce overcrowding in county jails. Under the new law, those arrested and jailed for non-violent, low-level crimes have a right to have their bail reviewed by a judge more quickly than before. Judges also have the ability to lower the amount set for bail for those who lack the ability to pay. Inmates will also earn credit toward the payment of fines as they spend time behind bars.

Under the reforms introduced for Cook County, judges for felony bond court will need to evaluate the danger posed by each individual suspect. If the suspect is not believed to be dangerous, yet the judge feels that the suspect should not be released without bail, the judge will need to choose an amount for bail that the suspect can afford.

Reforms come after years of calls for changes, class action lawsuit, and report from former US Attorney General

Justice advocacy groups and public officials have been calling for reform of both the Illinois and Cook County cash bail systems for years. One group filed a class action lawsuit against Cook County judges in October of 2016, arguing that the existing cash bail system was unconstitutionally discriminatory against indigent criminal suspects.

Last year the chief public defender hired the law firm of Covington and Burling LLP, where former US Attorney General Eric Holder now works, to analyze the county and state’s cash bail system. The firm’s report, released in July of this year, condemned the system and found the need for serious reform. Holder, the author of the report, wrote, “Cook County has continued to operate an unconstitutional wealth-based pretrial system that is irrational, unjust, costly, and disproportionately affects minority communities.”

If you’re facing criminal charges before the Bridgeview Courthouse or Markham Courthouse and want skilled and dedicated legal assistance to represent you, contact the Homewood offices of criminal defense attorney John Fairman for a consultation, at 708-799-4848, with additional offices in Bridgeview at 708-960-4806.

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Lee & Fairman, LLP, has offices in Homewood and Bridgeview, IL and Indianapolis, IN and serves clients in and around Chicago, Indianapolis, Worth, Elmwood Park, River Grove, Melrose Park, Stone Park, Franklin Park, Lincolnwood, Robbins, Schiller Park, Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Westmont, Amf Ohare, Villa Park, Darien, Evanston, Niles, Lemont, Morton Grove, Downers Grove, Lombard, Park Ridge, Golf, Addison, Lisle, Glen Ellyn, Elk Grove Village, Wilmette, Woodridge, Kenilworth, Des Plaines, Cook County and Du Page County.

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