Cashless bail is coming. Here's how two top suburban prosecutors will handle the change
Cashless bail becomes the law of the Land of Lincoln on Sept. 18.
With months of political debate, campaign rhetoric and legal challenges seemingly in the rearview mirror after Tuesday's Illinois Supreme Court decision upholding the Pretrial Fairness Act, now comes the hard part: putting the law into action and making it work.
The law establishes Illinois as the first state in the U.S. to completely abolish a cash bail system for the pretrial release of suspects. Instead of requiring the accused to put up money to go free, judges will decide (but only if asked by prosecutors) to either jail defendants until trial or release them, often with conditions.
We spoke this week with two of the suburbs' top prosecutors -- DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin and Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart -- for a nuts-and-bolts look at how they plan to implement the change in Illinois' second- and third-largest counties, respectively.
Both say their offices have been gearing up for months and will be ready to go on Sept. 18. That preparation included beefing up their staffs of attorneys who work with police on new cases and decide what charges to file, a process often called felony review.
Now those attorneys also will work with police, and in some cases witnesses and victims, to decide whether to seek detention. Depending on the charges, they'll have 24 or 48 hours to make that call, and the accused will remain in custody while they decide.
"There's going to be a conversation on every case," Berlin said. "We're going to get all the information we can with the goal of learning who the defendant is and whether the defendant may present a danger to the community if released."
Berlin said those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, though there are some offenses -- murder, carjacking, sexual assault and armed robbery among them -- for which he believes his office always will seek detention.
Rinehart also has a default list that includes murder, armed robbery, felony sex crimes, felony domestic violence, residential burglary and charges involving a shooting.
While critics say the elimination of cash bail will put dangerous criminals back into the community, Rinehart believes it'll do the opposite by preventing those people from buying their way out of jail.
"It's always been hard to know when to hold people (in custody) when there's a presumption of innocence. It's been hard for 100 years," he said. "But it shouldn't be decided by access to cash."
Under the new law, judges must presume that a defendant should be released while awaiting trial. It's up to prosecutors to show that the accused is a flight risk or a danger to a specific person or the community.
During the hearing, both sides will have a chance to present evidence and argument. While that also occurs during bond hearings, it's likely detention hearings will be lengthier and more involved.
Whether prosecutors request it or not, defendants eligible for detention still will appear in court after arrest, for what Rinehart calls "conditions court." That's where a judge will set the terms of a person's release, such as electronic monitoring, a ban on contacting a witness or victim, or a prohibition on using drugs or alcohol.
Berlin and Rinehart note that even if a defendant is let go initially, prosecutors can return to court seeking detention if the person violates a condition release, commits another crime or if new evidence surfaces to support detention.
"Even for nonviolent offenses, there are conditions (of release), and if the defendant violates those conditions, if they commit another crime, they can be detained," Rinehart said.
While on opposite sides of the new law philosophically -- Rinehart was a vocal supporter, Berlin a critic who successfully pushed for some key tweaks to its final version -- they say they share the same goal: making their communities safer.
"The number one goal is public safety," Berlin said. "We want to make sure that dangerous people are detained."
Police across the region will be on the lookout for leadfoots Wednesday, which is Speed Awareness Day in Illinois and 10 other Midwestern states.
- Daily Herald file photo
Slow it down
If you're prone to driving with a lead foot, you're going to want to ease off the pedal Wednesday.
That's when many suburban police departments will join their counterparts across Illinois and 10 other Midwestern states for Speed Awareness Day.
The campaign will address the dangers of speeding with a two-pronged approach, combining education/public outreach with high-visibility, zero-tolerance enforcement of speed limits.
"Many people view speeding as less dangerous than impaired driving or distracted driving," said Palatine police Cmdr. David Brandwein, whose agency is among the suburban departments participating in the campaign. "Data shows speeding continues to be a leading cause of injury and fatal crashes across the country."
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, speeding is involved in about a third of all fatal crashes nationwide. Based on preliminary data from 2022, that means speeding played a role in nearly 15,000 crash-related deaths last year.
And those who speed are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt, drinking and driving, or using a cellphone while driving, the NHTSA says.
Besides Illinois, states taking part are Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.
For more info on the campaign, visit speedawarenessday.org.
Nobody likes robocalls
If you thought there was nothing that could bring elected Democratic and Republican officials from across the country together, we give you robocalls.
In a rare show of bipartisan unanimity, attorneys general from all 50 states joined the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice this week to launch "Operation Stop Scam Calls," a new campaign targeting illegal telemarketing operations responsible for billions of calls.
As part of the campaign, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and 48 of his peers filed a lawsuit against Avid Telecom, its owner and its vice president.
The suit alleges that Avid is responsible for more than 7.5 billion illegal robocalls to millions of people on the National Do Not Call Registry. From December 2018 to January 2023, more than 290 million of those calls were to Illinois residents, according to Raoul's office.
"Unsolicited robocalls violate consumers' privacy and unnecessarily cost them time and money. Companies responsible for these illegal, annoying calls must be held accountable," Raoul said in an announcement of the campaign.
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