LUC CCJ
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Bond Decisions in Cook County

Authors

This research brief examines trends in bond decisions in Cook County, specifically examining the number and percent of individuals receiving individual-recognizance bonds (I-Bonds), cash or deposit bonds (C/D-Bonds), and No Bail for offenses that will be detainable or non-detainable under the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA). The analyses were produced using data provided by the Office of the Chief Judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County. These data include information for every individual with a case filed in Cook County between January 1, 2017 and March 31, 2022. Understanding trends in current bond decisions is a starting point to estimating and planning for the potential impact of the PFA.

What Types of Bond Currently Can Be Imposed?

All individuals arrested for a felony, misdemeanor domestic battery, or violation of an order of protection in Cook County currently appear for a bond court hearing before a judge who sets bond. Bond court judges may impose one of three bond types:

  • Individual recognizance bond (I-Bond) for which defendants are released without having to post monetary bail
  • A deposit bond (D-Bond) for which defendants pay 10% of the bond amount or a cash bond (C-Bond) for which defendants pay the full value of the bond amount in order to secure release from jail
  • No bail in which defendants are denied bail and ordered to remain in jail.

Individuals arrested for other misdemeanors may be released on an I-Bond by a local law enforcement agency or may post a C/D-Bond at a local law enforcement agency according to a bond schedule; those unable to post the C/D-Bond set by law enforcement, may be released on an I-Bond at the discretion of law enforcement or will appear in bond court where a judge will determine bond.

What Offenses Are Detainable Under the PFA?

Under the PFA, there are only two groups of individuals who are initially detainable: 1) those eligible for detention based on a “public safety” standard, and 2) those eligible for detention based on a “willful flight” standard. The public safety standard allows for the pretrial detention of individuals charged with specific, detainable offenses who are found to pose a specific, real, and present threat to any person:

specifically, individuals charged with 1) non-probationable forcible felonies and sex offenses, 2) weapon offenses (primarily illegal firearm possession), and 3) domestic violence offenses and violations of orders of protection. The willful flight standard allows for the pretrial detention of individuals shown to be a risk for willful flight from prosecution who are charged with either 1) a detention eligible offense under the public safety standard or 2) any Class 3 Felony or more serious felony offense.
Individuals charged with any other offense are non-detainable under the PFA.

How Many Individuals Are Charged with a Detainable and Non-Detainable Offenses in Cook County?

The number of individuals in Cook County charged with a detainable offense under the public safety standard remained relatively stable between 2017 and 2021. In the first quarter of 2017, there were 4,653 individuals charged with a detainable offense under the public safety standard, compared to 4,322 individuals in the last quarter of 2021 – a drop of just 7%. In contrast, the number of individuals charged with a detainable offense under the willful flight standard decreased nearly 50%, from roughly 2,800 individuals in the first quarter of 2017 to just over 1,400 individuals in the last quarter of 2021. The number of individuals charged with a non-detainable offense also decreased markedly – nearly 57% – from 11,700 individuals in the first quarter of 2017 to just over 5,000 individuals in the last quarter of 2021.



What does this mean for individuals in Cook County?

In 2021, 45% of individuals charged with an offense in Cook County would be ineligible for initial detention under the PFA. Rather, the majority of individuals – 55% – would be detainable under the PFA – 39% detainable under the public safety standard and 16% detainable under the willful flight standard. This is largely due to the marked drop in the number of individuals charged with non-detainable offenses, rather that an actual increase in the number charged with detainable offenses. Nonetheless, if these trends continue, the majority of individuals charged with offenses in Cook County could be detained under the PFA.

What Are Current Bond Decisions for Individuals Charged with Detainable and Non-Detainable Offenses?

While 55% of all individuals charged with offenses in 2021 would be eligible for detention under the PFA, 60% of all individual charged were, in fact, not detained at their initial bond decision. In 2021, 60% of individuals charged with an offense in Cook County received an I-Bond at their initial bond decision; in other words, of the 46,217 individuals charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense in 2021, 27,726 were released without having to post monetary bail. Roughly 37% of individuals received a C/D-Bond at their initial bond decision – meaning that 17,276 individuals were held pretrial and required to pay some form of monetary bail before they could be released from jail. Just 3% of individuals – 1,215 individuals – received No Bail at their initial bond decision, meaning the judge required them to be held in jail until the resolution of their case or until they were released under a reconsideration of bond.



These bond decisions were not the same across offense types. In 2021, nearly 85% of individuals charged with a non-detainable offense under the PFA received an I-Bond at their initial bond decision, just 14% received a C/D-Bond, and under 1% received No Bail. In contrast, just 35% of individuals charged with an offense detainable under the public safety standard received an I-Bond, 60% received a C/D-Bond, and under 5% received No Bail. Finally, nearly an equal proportion of individuals charged with an offense detainable under the willful flight standard (excluding those also detainable under the public safety standard) received either an I-Bond or a C/D-Bond at their initial bond decision – 52% received an I-Bond, 45% received a C/D-Bond, and roughly 3% received No Bail.



What does this mean for individuals in Cook County?

Of the 20,735 individuals charged with a non-detainable offense in 2021, 17,650 were released at their initial bond decision – but, 2,988 were required to post monetary bail before release and 97 were required to be held until the resolution of their case. Under the PFA, individuals charged with non-detainable offenses cannot be detained pretrial. Thus, if the PFA had been in effect, an additional 3,085 individuals charged with a non-detainable offense would have been immediately released pretrial.

Estimating the impact of the PFA for individuals charged with detainable offenses is more difficult, since it is unclear how often prosecutors may file a motion to detain and how often judges may impose detention following a successful motion. The simplest estimation is that those individuals currently receiving I-Bonds will continue to be released once the PFA takes effect. Thus, of the 7,349 individuals charged with an offense detainable under the willful flight standard in 2021, 3,790 were released at their initial bond court hearing and would likely be released under the PFA. However, 3,327 individuals were required to post monetary bail before release and 232 were required to be held until the resolution of their case. Similarly, of the 18,133 individuals charged with a detainable offense under the public safety standard, 6,286 were released at their initial bond court hearing and would likely be released under the PFA. However, again, 10,961 were required to post monetary bail before release and 886 were required to be held until the resolution of their case. Overall, in 2021, 46,217 individuals had initial bond decisions in Cook County. Roughly 60% (27,726 individuals) received an I-Bond and were released pretrial. The most conservative estimate of the impact of the PFA would estimate 30,811 individuals (67%) would have been released under the PFA – all individuals currently receiving I-Bonds and those individuals charged with a non-detainable offense who currently receive a C/D-Bond or No Bail. This would assume that all individuals charged with a detainable offense who currently receive a C/D-Bond or No Bail would be detained under the PFA. While all of these individuals could be detained pretrial under the PFA, doing so would require the prosecution to file a motion to detain and prove either that the individual was a risk of willful flight or posed a threat to an identifiable person. Thus, the number of individuals actually detained under the PFA will likely be much lower.



How Much Bail Did Individuals Have to Pay to Be Released Pretrial?

Individuals receiving a C/D-Bond currently are required to pay some form of monetary bail before they can be released from jail. In 2021, individuals receiving a C/D-Bond were required to pay an average of $4,640 in monetary bail to secure release. However, individuals charged with a non-detainable offense were required to pay an average of $1,646, while those charged with a detainable offense received markedly higher bail amounts. Specifically, individuals charged with an offense detainable under the willful flight standard were required to pay an average of $4,846 and individuals charged with an offense detainable under the public safety standard were required to pay an average of $5,344 to secure release from jail.

What does this mean for individuals in Cook County?

Under the PFA, individuals will no longer be required to post monetary bail to be released from jail pretrial. Thus, the financial burden on individual defendants who currently receive a C/D-Bond will be reduced by $4,640, on average. Again, this varies across defendants.

The 2,988 individuals who were charged with non-detainable offenses and received C/D-Bonds in 2021 would have had to post an average of $1,646 to be released - or a total of $4.5 million. Similarly, the 3,327 individuals who were charged with offenses detainable under the willful flight standard and received C/D-Bonds would have had to post an average of $4,848 to be released - or a total of $16.1 million. Finally, the 10,961 individuals who were charged with offenses detainable under the public safety standard and received C/D-Bonds would have had to post an average of $5,344 to be released - or a total of $58.8 million. The PFA will reduce these financial burdens to $0. Thus, overall,the PFA would have saved defendants and their families roughly $79.6 million in avoided bail costs in 2021.

However, it is more difficult to estimate the financial and personal impact if these individuals will now be detained after the PFA. Prior to the PFA, individuals could pay monetary bail and secure release from jail. While the PFA will eliminate the financial burden of monetary bail, it may create new financial burdens as individuals who are detained under the PFA will no longer be able to pay bail to secure release and must remain in jail until either the disposition of their case or release by a judge.



Conclusion

In 2021, roughly 46,217 individuals charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Cook County received a bond decision following arrest. The majority of these individuals – 55% – were detainable under the PFA; however, nearly 60% of all individuals charged received an I-Bond at their initial bond court hearing and were released pretrial. Moreover, several individuals charged with offenses that are non-detainable under the PFA also received C/D-Bonds or No Bail. If these individuals had been released pretrial as well (as required under the PFA), over 66% of individuals charged in 2021 would have received an I-Bond and been released pretrial. If these patterns continue, then we may expect 66% of individuals charged in Cook County to be released each year after implementation of the PFA. This, however, is a conservative estimate; to detain the remaining 34% of individuals the prosecution would have to file a motion to detain and prove either that the individual was a risk of willful flight or posed a specific, real and present threat to another person. Thus, the percent of individuals actually detained under the PFA will likely be much lower. The elimination of cash bail will also have an immediate impact on communities. In 2021, individuals receiving C/D-Bonds would have had to post a total of $76.4 million to secure release pretrial. The PFA eliminates this financial burden. Future analyses will examine individuals’ ability to post bail and secure release; in this way, we may be able to produce a more accurate estimate of the number of people actually detained pretrial until the resolution of their case and, in turn, better estimate the financial impact on individuals.

Methodology

Using data provided by the Circuit Court of Cook County, we examined all cases filed in Cook County from January 1, 2017 through March 31, 2022. For each of these cases, the data were examined to determine if any of the charges would be eligible for pretrial detention under the PFA’s “public safety standard.” Within the PFA there are specific crimes enumerated that, if charged, make an individual eligible to be petitioned by the county State’s Attorney for a detention hearing, and if a hearing is granted by the judge and the judge finds that detention is appropriate, to be held in detention pretrial. Loyola identified roughly 400 specific statute references for these detainable offenses, and grouped them into three broad categories, including: 1) non-probationable forcible felonies and sex offenses, 2) weapon offenses (primarily illegal firearm possession crimes, and 3) domestic violence and violating an order of protection offenses. If a case involved any one of these charges, is was categorized as detainable under the public safety standard. If a case involved a charge classified as a Class 3 Felony or more serious (i.e., Class X, Class 1, or Class 2 Felony), but did not include any charges detainable under the public safety standard, it was categorized as detainable under the willful flight standard. If a case did not involve any charges under either set of detainable charges, it was categorized as non-detainable. To determine the bond decision, we examined only the initial bond decision in the case. Many cases have subsequent bond court hearings at which the bond may change; we did not examine those changes as we were interested in the initial decision to detain or not detain an individual.