Legislators propose changes in bail bond charges

Updated 3/9/2015 6:38 PM

A group of lawmakers is proposing legislation that would limit bail bond processing charges in Cook County.

The proposal would cap at $100 the amount of bail bond money the clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County could keep for processing bail.


Now, court clerks statewide retain 10 percent of a defendant's posted bail as "bail bond costs," regardless of the size of the bail imposed. The clerks' offices keep that amount even if bond is refunded or charges are dropped.

In 2013, that translated to $5.6 million kept by the Cook County clerk of the circuit court, said Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

Supporters of the proposed legislation include Republican state Rep. Ron Sandack, of Downers Grove; Republican state Sen. Michael Connelly, of Lisle; and state Rep. Elgie R. Sims and state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, both Chicago Democrats.

The bill would apply to Cook County only, but legislators said they hope other counties would follow suit.

"Common sense tells you that it costs a clerk of the court the same amount to process a $10,000 bond as it does to process a $100,000 bond," Sandack said in a prepared statement. "To charge a percentage-based amount rather than a flat fee serves no purpose other than to provide a revenue stream for government bureaucracy and it needs to be changed."

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Cook County circuit court Clerk Dorothy Brown said via email that the money helps cover "expenses associated with the services of the judiciary, sheriff, state's attorney, public defender and the court clerk as well as the pretrial services staff used to help judges make decisions in setting bail."

The sponsors intend to file a bill in the Illinois House and Senate this week.

"Our overreliance on a money-based bail system disproportionately impacts low-income people and minorities, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and incarceration," said Fritchey, adding that about 86 percent of Cook County jail inmates are African-American and Hispanic. "Every year, the county takes millions of dollars out of their pockets, with no regard to their guilt or innocence."

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