Have you ever been arrested in Illinois or know someone that has? If not have you ever read the paper and seen that someone has been charged with a crime and their bail has been set at a high number like $500,000? Do you know how much it takes for that person to get out of jail? It’s not $500,000, but rather $50,000. You typically only have to pay 10% of what the bail number is.
In 99.9% of criminal cases you only have to pay 10% to actually get out of jail. So why do we play games like this? If every defendant can get out for a certain amount then just make that the real amount.
The only reason this happens is that in very rare cases, usually with drug dealers, the prosecution can ask the Judge to make a defendant pay a cash only bond. This is designed to divert money from suspected criminal activity. But if prosecutors want to do this and make those defendants pay a higher amount, then they can just ask for a higher amount.
Recently a New Trier student had bail set at $500,000.00 from what sounded like a reckless driving case. Her real bail to get out was $50,000. Lots of callers for misdemeanors get bail at $10,000, but only pay $1,000 to walk. If you skip court you lose the 10%, and while the court has the right to go after you for the full amount, we almost never hear of that happening unless property like a house was used to post the bail.
In other states, bail bondsmen often pay the whole amount of the bail for you and you pay them a 10% commission. Illinois took bondsmen out of the equation as you go directly to the jail to pay the 10%. At the end of the case you get that money back minus any administrative costs.
The failure to appear rate on criminal cases is reportedly over 20%. Most of those cases involve low bond amounts around $100 or so. If the State was serious about bond issues and making criminal defendants show up to court they would impose bail that is high enough to make people want to appear, but not too high that our jails are filled with people that simply can’t make bail.
As a FYI, once bail is set does not mean that is the permanent amount. A Judge can make it higher or revoke it based on actions that take place later on or new facts that come to light. You can also file a motion to have your bail reduced. A knowledgeable, well connected attorney can often make this happen although the chances for success with this are usually much greater at the first bail hearing.
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