CHICAGO (July 17, 2017) – Defendants who pose no danger to the public will be released from custody pending trial because any future bail amounts will be set at an amount they can afford, under an order Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans entered today that will take effect on September 18, 2017, in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

“Defendants should not be sitting in jail awaiting trial simply because they lack the financial resources to secure their release. If they are not deemed a danger to any person or the public, my order states that they will receive a bail they can afford,” Chief Judge Evans said.

Chief Judge Evans’ order states that a judge must ensure that “the defendant has the present ability to pay the amount necessary to secure his or her release on bail.” This means that judges in the Circuit Court of Cook County can only set bail in an amount that a defendant can afford to pay at the time of the bail hearing, which ensures the defendant’s release.

As part of this significant change to the process, Chief Judge Evans will also create a new division of the court specifically for initial bail proceedings, effective September 18, 2017. The establishment of a new division, with a presiding judge to oversee it, will allow the court to further examine and enhance bail-setting procedures. All judges will have the opportunity to request assignment to the new division.

Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Tim Evans [Photo Credit: Mary L. Datcher]

If a judge finds that a defendant’s future court attendance can only be accomplished by setting a monetary bail, Chief Judge Evans’ order lays out procedures for the court to follow that will assist the judge in setting a bail that the defendant can afford to pay. For the first time, court staff and judges will be required to inquire into the ability of a defendant to pay a bail amount.

For the defendant to be released, the judge must also find that the defendant does not present a danger to the community. Judges also have the discretion to release defendants on individual-recognizance bonds or electronic monitoring, which do not require the defendant to pay money to be released.

Defendants who are found to be a danger to a person or the community, after a bail hearing, will be held in jail without bond.

Chief Judge Evans’ order takes effect on September 18, 2017, for all felony cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The order will take effect for misdemeanors on January 1, 2018, when court staff begins conducting pretrial risk assessments of misdemeanor defendants. (Pretrial risk assessments of felony defendants began in June 2015).

After the first year of the order’s implementation, Chief Judge Evans plans to review statistics to see what effect the order has on: the size and makeup of the jail population; whether defendants attend future court hearings; and whether defendants commit new offenses while their case is pending.

SOURCE: Office of the Chief Judge Circuit Court of Cook County

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