New Law Helps Indigent Defendants
A bill has been signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner, designed to alleviate the problem of the inability to afford bail for those charged with certain nonviolent crimes. Often, defendants charged with crimes are eligible for release before their trial date, but cannot afford bail. This means that they stay in jail pending trial, which can be weeks or months away. Even though they have not been convicted of a crime, they suffer serious personal and economic troubles as a result of the incarceration.
Senate Bill 202 creates a separate court for impoverished inmates charged with low-level shoplifting and trespassing offenses. If, within 30 days of bail being set, their cases are not resolved and they cannot afford bail, the sheriff can release them pending trial.
The new law creates the Accelerated Resolution Court pilot program in Cook County. The program allows the sheriff to refer eligible defendants to the Accelerated Resolution Court if notice is given to the prosecution, the defendant’s lawyer, and the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
A defendant will be eligible for referral if he or she is:
- Still in jail 72 hours after bond is set;
- Unable to post bail, or ineligible for electronic monitoring because of being homeless or lacking an adequate host site; and
- Charged with:
- Retail theft under $300;
- Criminal trespass to land; or
- Criminal trespass to state-supported land.
A defendant is ineligible if he or she has been convicted of a violent crime within the past 10 years. Violent crimes include, but are not limited to, murder, sexual assault, arson, kidnapping, aggravated battery, armed robbery, stalking, and firearm offenses.
The Accelerated Resolution Court must adjudicate any referred case within 30 days. If the case has not been resolved by that time, the defendant must be released from custody pending trial, subject to certain terms of release. Defendants may either be released on their own recognizance, or released on electronic monitoring. Release is only allowed provided the defendant agrees to the terms of the release.
If a defendant is released on recognizance, the terms of the release must include:
- Appearing in court;
- Cooperating with the court process;
- Not leaving the state without permission of the court;
- Not committing any crimes;
- Surrendering all firearms; and
- Filing notice of any change of address.
If necessary, the court may also impose other conditions, such as:
- Refraining from drug or alcohol use;
- Refraining from going to certain places,
- Submitting to drug, alcohol, or mental health treatment;
- Living in a designated facility; or
- Any other reasonable conditions.
A defendant who fails to appear in court as required by the terms of the release commits a criminal offense.
If you have been charged with a crime, an experienced attorney can help you protect your legal rights. Please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC to schedule an initial consultation.