No cash bail. Rarely has an issue animated politicians and voters the way this one has. In Illinois, money is gone as a condition of pre-trial release.
So how is it going to work?
On Monday, in Room 100 of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, history will be made.
Mary Marubio is the presiding judge of the Pretrial Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
“People who have recently been arrested and who are awaiting pretrial conditions will be coming here receiving those conditions and then being released from custody,” she said.
When those first proceedings begin, Illinois will become the first state to eliminate cash bail.
When asked if this law make us more or less safe, Marubio replied, “I believe it’s going to make us more safe.”
That’s not everyone’s view.
Criticism of the no cash bail overhaul was harsh. Supporters called the skepticism fearmongering.
After a challenge from virtually every State’s Attorney, Illinois’ highest court upheld the law paving the way for the new system to take effect.
Here’s how it works.
Beginning Monday, police must issue citations for suspects accused of low-level misdemeanors. Those individuals will be given a court date and released.
For more serious crimes, where a suspect is arrested and remains in police custody, a decision about pre-trial release will go to the court.
Conditions for release are set in an initial hearing. Then, the prosecutor can request a defendant remain in jail.
Witnesses are allowed and the victim will be notified.
Sharone Mitchell is the Cook County Public Defender.
“The whole thing about money. The ability to be able to pay money, just isn’t part of the scenario anymore,” Mitchell said. “Before the Pretrial Fairness Act, a judge could make a determination that a person is eligible for release, but they had to pay a certain amount of money. The new system basically makes a determination about whether someone is eligible to be released, just like the old system, and the judge, just makes a yes or no decision. “
The judge will issue a ruling after listening to arguments from the prosecutor and defense attorney.
“We look at the person’s background and that includes prior convictions, even prior juvenile adjudications, past failures to appear,” Marubio said. “And we look at the nature and circumstances of the offense in front of us.”
The law defines detention eligible offenses — some of them are domestic battery, stalking, predatory criminal sexual assault, violations of order of protection, most gun charges and murder.
The law tweaks how police treat some suspects, enumerating offenses that require release. Among them: petty offenses, certain misdemeanors, people charged with burglary where no one is harmed and battery without great bodily harm. But police maintain discretion to take a suspect into custody.
“There are some charges that themselves don’t quality for detention,” Marubio said.
Rather than a defendant arguing they should be released awaiting trial, it’s assumed that they will be. Now it’s up to prosecutors to push for a defendant to remain behind bars.
“The discretion is with the state to file that petition and to be clear, that’s the standard now,” Marubio said.
In Cook County, the state, the defense and the court are ready for this transformation of the criminal justice system.
“It’s pretty sad that for so long we made decisions about whether somebody should be detained based upon the money that they had in their pockets,” Mitchell said.
“Now people that don’t have the money, who are non-violent aren’t being held because they don’t have the money and people who are violent or dangerous, who might have the means, can’t pay for their way out of jail,” Marubio said.
Starting on Monday at 12:01am, anyone suspected of committing a crime will have their case put into the new system. People arrested before then, or who are already being detained, will have to petition the court for a hearing under the new rules.
Fact Checking on No Cash Bail in Illinois
- People currently detained in jail will be released September 18
False. A defendant currently being detained can petition the court for release. They’ll get a hearing where a judge will make a determination about their eligibility to be released.
- Judges no longer decide whether a defendant is detained while awaiting trial.
False. Judges have the final say about whether or not a defendant remains in jail while awaiting trial.
- Suspects charged with murder are eligible for pre-trial release.
True. Defendants accused of murder are eligible for pre-trial release if the judge determines they are not a safety threat or a flight risk.
- Police are no longer allowed to arrest suspects for minor misdemeanors/crimes.
False. Police must issue citations for suspects accused of low-level misdemeanors and petty offenses unless there is a clear public safety threat. If an officer determines a suspect is a threat to public safety, he/she can make an arrest.
- Police are no longer allowed to remove trespassing suspects.
False. Police maintain the discretion to remove and arrest anyone who poses a threat to the community.
- Sex offenses and residential burglars will be released while awaiting trial.
False. Judges retain power to deny pre-trial release to defendants accused of sex offenses and residential burglary.
- Domestic battery, stalking, violations of order of protection and most gun charges are detention eligible offenses.
- Prosecutors are required to seek detention of a defendant awaiting trial if they want a suspect to remain in jail.
- Victims must be notified that a suspect is being released while awaiting trial.