SYCAMORE — Illinois counties are preparing to meet the requirements of a bail reform law taking effect next year.
The new law requires a lawyer to be present at the initial court appearance for anyone arrested, the Daily Chronicle reported. The mandate will take effect Jan. 1.
“The first time a person is in front of a judge on a criminal matter is the most critical point in their case,” said Mike Venditti, director of DeKalb County Court Services.
The law aims to release defendants without requiring they post cash bail if they don’t pose a reasonable threat to the community and are unlikely to flee.
“In the state of Illinois, the most severe form of punishment in response to a criminal act is imprisonment, and we regularly imprison people before they go through trial,” Venditti said. “For many, a small bail is basically a sentence of detention.”
Venditti said the law will help restore people’s constitutional rights.
DeKalb County has some elements of the reform already in place. But officials will need to find a way to get a public defender at bond call on Saturdays and over holiday weekends, adding more than 60 extra work days.
DeKalb County Public Defender Tom McCulloch said the law will have a more profound effect on neighboring counties.