Confusion in the courtroom for no-cash bail in Illinois

TV6 Investigates looks at what happened the first day the new law takes effect
Starting Monday, defendants in Illinois courthouses don't have to post cash bail. After arrestees are processed, they’re freed unless a prosecutor intervenes.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:26 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - There was some chaos in a Rock Island County courtroom Monday as prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges struggled through the first day of no-cash bail in Illinois.

Beginning Monday, people accused of low-level crimes in Illinois won’t have to post money to be set free while they await trial. Now, most low-level offenders will be released once they see a judge.

But prosecutors can petition to keep certain alleged offenders in jail. On Monday, that included people charged with murder, sex assaults and drug dealing – people prosecutors say are too dangerous to be let loose.

Judges took the charges, prior history and risk to the community into consideration.

One case involved Jason Wright. He’s been held for months on gun and drug charges.

His wife, Rebecka, watched anxiously from a courtroom upstairs that showed the proceedings on a screen via Zoom.

“I set my alarm for 5 a.m. The baby was up all night because he’s teething. So I slept through my alarm. We woke up at like, 7:20 I threw all my kids in the car, brushed their teeth, ran out the door and been sitting here since 8:30 this morning, just waiting, listening to case after case after case.”

She watched each case for hints about what might happen to her husband. And while some high-level defendants were let go today, most were detained – including Jason Wright.

The judge said he had about a quarter pound of cocaine and a “virtual arsenal” of guns in his house.

Outside the courthouse, Rebecka Wright’s main worry was how she was going to tell her kids.

“They kept calling me in the courtroom, like is dad come and what’s happening? I don’t know what I’m going to tell them. I’m just going to tell them, you know, stay strong. We’ll have another chance. Just gotta keep fighting.”

Going forward, attorneys at the courthouse said they expect to see five or six detention hearings a day, depending on charges.

The SAFE-T Act passed in 2021, and its no cash bail provision was supposed to take effect on Jan. 1 of this year.

After months of legal disputes on the law’s constitutionality, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that ending cash bail is constitutional. The court issued the 5-2 ruling on July 18.