Pretrial Reforms

Published: Dec 14, 2016, by admin in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

The Illinois criminal justice system is gearing up for a series of reforms to its pretrial procedures, meaning the stages that occur between a suspect’s arrest and his or her trial. In busy jurisdictions, it may take months to schedule a trial, so suspects who can’t meet bail may spend months behind bars even though they’re not technically guilty of any wrongdoing.

This system isn’t just unfair–it costs the state a lot of money. For this reason, the Illinois Supreme Court and State Representatives such as Carol Ammons of Urbana are pushing for a series of reforms. They’ve asked a national non-profit policy organization, the Pretrial justice Institute, to assist in conceiving and implementing important changes to the Illinois pretrial system.

In What Ways Will Illinois Reform Its Pretrial System?

Illinois has embarked on a four-year project under the tutelage of the Pretrial Justice Institute called 3DaysCount. The program’s name is inspired by the fact that once people spend more than three days in jail, they begin to pose a higher risk to public safety because of the trauma of incarceration, interrupted employment, and disrupted family life.

The reform program has set four goals:

  • Guarantee due process to people facing pretrial detention
  • Only detain people who pose a significant risk to public safety or who will likely not show up for their trial
  • Give judges safe, fair, and cost efficient alternatives to pretrial detention
  • Adopt only those policies that increase public safety

The Reforms Will Increase Fairness and Decrease Costs

One of more likely reforms is the abolishment of the bail system. Currently, suspects must pay bail to avoid pretrial detention. This system is unfair because it treats suspects differently on the basis of their financial means, as opposed the risk they may pose to society or the crime with which they’ve been charged. For example, a poor person charged with shoplifting will likely have to wait in jail until the trial. A rich person charged with assault, on the other hand, can pay bail and live at home until the trial begins.

The United States spends around $14 billion each year on the detention of people awaiting trial. Reducing the number of people who are detained at the pretrial stage and ensuring that only the most high-risk individuals get detained isn’t just fair–it will save the state a lot of money. The proposed reforms will give judges the tools to make a risk-based decision on who will be detained before their trial, taking into account the crime they’ve been charged with and their criminal history.

Three counties in Illinois (Cook, Kane, and McLean) have already put in place a pilot program called the Public Safety Assessment, which enables judges to select only high-risk individuals for pretrial detainment. This program has allowed more suspected criminal offenders to keep going to work and to care for their families while awaiting trial. In the past, they would have had to put their lives on hold while waiting in jail for their trial to begin.

O’Meara Law Is Here to Help

If you’ve been charged with a crime, the pretrial stages of your case are very important and should not be overlooked. With a skilled Chicago criminal attorney by your side, you can vastly improve your chances of obtaining a good case outcome if you take action before your trial starts.

To learn more about how a lawyer can help at the pretrial stage, call O’Meara Law LLC today at 312-909-0706 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.