What If I Can’t Pay Bail in Illinois?

Published: Sep 22, 2017, by admin in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

If you are arrested in the state of Illinois, you will have to endure a period of time that involves various activities within the legal system related to your case prior to going to trial. Rather than remaining in jail during this period of time, depending on the nature of your alleged crime, you may have the option to post bail. According to State law in Illinois, bail bondsmen may not be used to post bail – it must be posted by an individual – in other words, from the money provided by you, a family member, or friend. However, you may need to ask the question: “Do I have any options for relief if I can’t pay bail in Illinois?”

If you have been charged with a crime in Illinois, it’s important to take advantage of the legal process as effectively as possible to help you avoid unnecessary time in prison while you’re waiting for your case to begin. At O’Meara Law LLC, a criminal defense lawyer can help ensure your legal rights are protected as well as help you understand Chicago’s bail bonds process.

To receive a free case evaluation, call attorney Michael O’Meara today at 312-909-0706.

The Bail Process

Reason for Bail
The system of bail as provided for in the State of Illinois, as well as in other states of the Union, serves as a means of guaranteeing that individuals arrested for crimes will return to appear in court despite their release during the interim. This system avoids the need for every person arrested to sit in jail until their first court date. They have the option to post bail or pay a certain amount of money as a promise of their return.

Bail serves as a high incentive to appear in court at the scheduled date. Defendants, upon their return to court, will be reimbursed their bail money minus any required fees or fines. However, a failure to appear in court will also mean a forfeiture of their bail money to the court.

Bail Amount
The required amount of bail is determined by each court on a case-by-case basis. The amount must be large enough to provide proper incentive for the defendant to return, but not so large that the defendant cannot pay. A judge will take into account an accused offender’s financial resources, previous criminal record (if any), and likelihood of flight risk.

No Bail for Serious Crimes
The judge may not allow bail if the crime rises to a level of seriousness that increases the likelihood the offender may flee. Bail may also be denied if the alleged crime under consideration is a repeat offense.

Bail Bondsmen
As stated previously, no bail bondsmen are permitted in the State of Illinois. If you are arrested, your bail must be posted directly to the court. Although the procedure may differ between courts, the clerk of the court that hears the case must receive the bail money.

Ability to Pay Bail

Courts in the state of Illinois have a responsibility to ensure that bail bonding and the amount set for bail is not punitive or excessive. Courts have an obligation to take into account the financial ability of an alleged offender to pay a particular bail amount. In such circumstances, it’s important to have an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney on your side to fight against any prosecution attempts to set bail at an unreasonably high level. If you can’t pay bail in Illinois according to the amount likely to be demanded by the court, your attorney may be able to persuade the court otherwise and in your favor.

Bail Relief for Low Level Offenders

The State of Illinois has recently reformed the process by which it demands bail for low-level offenders. Governor Rauner signed SB 2034 that provides specific relief to poor individuals accused of nonviolent, low-level crimes. Prior to the implementation of this law, numerous low-level offenders were forced to spend significant time behind bars waiting for their cases to be completed due to the fact that they did not have the financial capability to post bail.

In many cases, for low-level offenses the bail required can range between $100 to $500 depending on the person’s record and the nature of the case. The inability of defendants to pay these amounts for lesser offenses forces the jails to fill up, causing additional problems. This situation can even have the effect of motivating individuals so charged to plead guilty instead of spending excessive amounts of time in jail waiting for the resolution of their case.

Although in many cases a person is only required to post 10 percent of the bail amount, this still places many alleged offenders in a position where they can’t pay bail in Illinois. A bail amount of $2000, for example, would require required a posting of $200 – an amount that may be too steep for many living from paycheck to paycheck. If an accused individual is unable to afford an attorney, their required bail amount may be lowered as well.

This new law signed by the governor makes a presumption that bail be required in a non-monetary form instead of monetary for those especially unable to pay. Some examples of non-monetary bail include curfews, home monitoring, stayaway orders, and in person reporting to county personnel or the court. If cash or monetary bail is used, and the accused is unable to pay within seven days, they are eligible to receive another hearing on the conditions and amount of bail. In addition, they are entitled to receive a credit towards the cash bail amount for every day they serve. The hope and goal of these modifications to the law is that fewer people will need to wait in jail for extended periods of time, thus saving money for taxpayers and the State.

Particular Relief in Cook County

In July 2017, at Chicago Circuit Court judge signed an order that modified the cash bond system for Cook County, one of the most active judicial districts in the United States. The order was designed to help ensure suspects are not forced to wait in prison as they wait for trial simply because they have insufficient funds available to pay bail.

Defendants considered non-dangerous will no longer be required to remain in jail if they are unable to make bail in Cook County – a County that includes the city of Chicago. Under the judge’s order, as a defendant in Cook County, you will be required within 48 hours to provide information, prior to your initial bail hearing, as to your ability or inability to pay. If you are unable to pay, you will not be held prior to trial. The judge’s order states that individuals not deemed a danger to any other person or the public at large will only receive a bail amount they can afford. The order became effective on September 18, 2017 for felony cases. Its implementation for misdemeanor cases begins on January 1, 2018.

Contact an Experienced Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested and find yourself in a position where you can’t pay bail in Illinois, you need an experienced attorney who can intelligently and persuasively represent you – someone who will fight for your freedom from start to finish. Attorney Michael O’Meara will provide you with the vigorous and effective advocacy you need in your case.

Contact O’Meara Law LLC today at 312-909-0706 set up a free consultation.