Changes to Bail Laws

For most criminal cases in Illinois, bail is the mechanism which the Court uses to ensure that a defendant continues to appear in Court until his or her case has resolved.

However, for most individuals, even those charged with minor offenses, bail continues to be a problem as many do not have the financial means to post bail. What this leads to is overcrowding of county jails as the individual’s case moves through the criminal justice system. There have been calls to reform the current bail process to allow individuals, especially those with little to no criminal history and those charged with minor offenses, the ability to post bail while their case is pending.

Just recently, the General Assembly has passed a new law addressing this very issue. Under the old laws, a Motion to Reduce Bond (the primary method of re-reviewing a previously set bail amount) could only be brought if there was a significant change in the defendant’s situation. The new law, effective June 9, 2017, calls for an automatic review of bail if the individual has been charged with a business offense, petty offense, misdemeanor or certain Class 3 and 4 Felonies, within 7 days of the initial bail setting (or on the next scheduled court date, whichever is earlier), should the individual be unable to post the bail due to financial inability.

In addition, the new law allows $30 a day to be deducted from an individual’s bail amount during the period they are in custody due to the inability to post bail. While $30 may not seem like much money, if the person has been in custody for a month due to the inability to post bail, the bail amount would be reduced by nearly $1,000, a significant percentage of most bail amounts set on the above enumerated class level offenses.

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