Cook County announces new plan to release low level defendants from jail pending trial

Cook County and the Illinois Supreme Court announced a new plan to alleviate overcrowding at Cook County Jail.

Under the plan, anyone who has been held in custody for 48 hours, with a bond of $10,000 or less will be subject to an automatic “Motion to Reconsider Bond” with an eye towards releasing defendants on their own recognizance or placing them on electronic home monitoring whenever appropriate.  This will avoid having indigent persons sitting in jail for a month or more while waiting for their court date, costing the county and taxpayers approximately $143 per day per prisoner.  Many of these defendants are eligible for probation or a similar sentence.

Links:  Chicago Tribune:  “Cook County seeks Bond Court Changes”

Chicago Sun-Times:  “New plan allows release of low-level suspects to free up jail space”


State’s financial woes is good news for convicts

Illinois’ financial crisis is turning into a boon for convicted criminals.

First, both the Illinois House and Senate have approved a new Good Time credit bill, which will allow the Illinois Department of Corrections to release non-violent prisoners earlier.  The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor.

Next, Governor Quinn is moving ahead with plans to close several prisons, juvenile justice centers and transitional centers, including the Tamms supermax prison and the Dwight Correctional Center.  This will supposedly save the State $62 million.

Of course, prison closure will only exacerbate prison overcrowding, which will likely lead to more early releases.

As I said, its a great time to be a convict.

US to issue renewable work visas to some undocumented aliens

Major news today on the immigration front.  The United States Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will allow certain undocumented aliens to apply for renewable 2 year work visas.  These visas will allow a person, who was brought into this county illegally when they were younger than the age of 16 and have been living here for at least 5 years, have not committed any felonies or “significant” misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors and is a student or a veteran or has a high school degree or GED.

These visas will allow the individual to obtain a social security number and therefore, a driver’s license.

Here is Secretary Napolitano’s press release:

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:

  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of thirty.

Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.

While this guidance takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should visit USCIS’s website (at, ICE’s website (at, or DHS’s website (at Beginning Monday, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming process.

For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

For more information on the Administration policy reforms to date, please see this fact sheet.

A prosecutor who sought a win instead of justice

This is yet another terrible story about a prosecutor who sought a win instead of justice.  The evidence clearly suggests that he hid crucial reports from the defense, and as a result, an innocent man was convicted of killing his wife, and even worse, another woman became victim to the actual killer.

It is amazing how many people have been exonerated in the past 10 years because of DNA evidence.  The mind reels thinking of how many people have been wrongfully imprisoned or executed.

Judicial Election results here!

Update: a list of Cook County judicial primary winners compiled by Jack Leyhane.

Update II:  all election results outside of Cook County and from Cook County* compiled by the Illinois State Bar Association.

*Update III:  I am not sure about the ISBA results above.  They have Abbey Fishmann Romanek winning over Larry Axelrood, which I believe is incorrect. I can’t vouch for all their results.

Here is the link to the Chicago Tribune’s page with the 2012 Judicial primary election results.

Here is the link to the Chicago election results.

Here is the link to the Cook County Clerk”s election results for Cook County suburban.

Here is the link for Dupage County election results.

Here is the link for Lake County election results.

Worth Reading: Eric Zorn on why Blago does not deserve sympathy

Here is a link to an Eric Zorn column entitled “Still cleaning up Blago’s mess” which argues that any sympathy that he might have had for Blago dissipates whenever he thinks of the thousands of people whose petitions for pardons went unanswered.  Here is a quote:

 Whenever I felt a surge of pity rising for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as he headed off to federal prison yesterdat, l snapped out of it by reminding myself of the Illinois 3,000.

That figure – 3,000 – was a rough estimate provided to me by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board of the number of petitions for commutations and pardons that was at least figuratively piled up on Blagojevich’s desk when he was arrested in December, 2008…

Not all of these petitions had merit, to be sure. Some were hail-Mary efforts by the wicked. Others, though, were from those who’d committed minor crimes or been in the middle of dark, confusing situations many years ago and were still having trouble getting hired because of it.

All of them, however, deserved the favor of a quick yes or no from the governor – a release from limbo.

The ability to issue such a release is an awesome power, one that comes with potential political risk:  Show compassion to the wrong person, someone who comes back and commits some ghastly crime, say, and you’ll be branded a dupe and an enabler of evil.

Show compassion to the right people, on the other hand, and almost nobody cares, since most  of them are already on the margins of society anyway.

Not only that, but under Rod Blagojevich the Illinois State police defied court orders to expunge criminal records.

As a human being, I am sympathetic to Mr. Blagojevich and especially his two young daughters.  (His wife, I think, was lucky to avoid indictment herself).

As a citizen of Illinois and a taxpayer, I am outraged by his lack of ethics and betrayal of the people he was supposed to represent.

And as a lawyer, I find it terribly sad and disappointing that he instead of using his discretionary power to grant pardons, Mr. Blagojevich apparently thought only about the political ramifications of doing so.  Even worse was his obstinate refusal to have the state police process expungements, which is totally inexcusable and to my mind, criminal.

Ultimately, I think we, as voters, bring this on ourselves, because we reward politicians (and worse, the shadowy anonymous political action committees) that run attack ads.  These are the ads that stridently claim that someone “is on the wrong side” because he or she did something like grant a pardon to someone who later did something bad.  The result is that we get politicians who will only do the expedient thing.

I see a lot of judges who do that too — instead of confidently deciding a case on the merits, they worry about how their decision will play out in the newspaper headlines after all the subtleties of the case have been scrubbed out.

This is not how we were taught that our leaders would act when we were back in fourth grade civics class.

As next Tuesday is primary day, it would be a good start if we all took a little time to learn about the candidates and make decisions based on his or her background, integrity, intellect, and political philosophy, instead of frivolous reasons like the sound of their name, ethnic background, a catchy campaign slogan or worst of all, an anonymous attack ad.

(Chicago Bar Association Judicial Evaluation ratings can be found here).

Updates to past blog posts

In the past few days, there have been several updates to stories that I have discussed on this blog:

  • Alia Bernard, the young woman who was involved in a fatal accident, which only became a felony level offense instead of a civil lawsuit because there was some trace amount of marijuana in her blood (and all sides agreed that she was not impaired by that in any way) was sentenced to seven years prison for aggravated DUI.  She will have to serve 85% of her sentence.
  • L.A. Dodgers first baseman James Loney’s DUI case was dismissed when blood and urine test results came back negative — leaving many to wonder why he acted in a very bizarre manner after he crashed into three vehicles.
  • “Final Destination 3” star Ryan Merriman plead no contest to his DUI, and received three years unsupervised probation, alcohol classes and $390 in fines plus costs.
  • Raihan “Ray” Sayeed, the young man whose request to travel to attend the Grammys was denied by the judge overseeing his reckless driving probation, claims that he had written apology letters to his victims and delivered them to his probation officer three days after his sentencing.  He claims to be “truly and sincerely sorry.”
  • Representative Elaine Nekritz’s bill (HB3944) allowing citizen’s to video record police officers in the course of their duties, passed the Illinois House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 9 to 2, thus sending the bill to the full House floor for a vote.
  • Frank Trout, the former Westmont Fire Chief, was found not guilty of DUI.
  • And, while its not quite an update, it is another celebrity DUI in the news:  Bronco’s running back Knowshon Moreno was arrested for a DUI, with license plates that read “SAUCED”

Speed Cameras coming soon to Chicago

Speed cameras will be coming soon to the street by Chicago schools and parks under a new law signed today by Governor Quinn.

The text of the new law can be found here.

According to the Chicago Tribune:  “the ‘safety zones’ where cameras could operate would cover nearly half the city.”

If you are detected going 6 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, you would receive a fine of $50; if you are over 10 miles an hour, you would be fined $100.

These speeding citations would not go on your driving record; however, if you rack up five or more unpaid tickets your driver’s license would be suspended.

Is this about safety?  According to the Tribune: “Red-light cameras generated $69 million for the city in 2010, and speed cameras likely would grow that number considerably…[The Tribune’s] analysis of federal data on crashes showed that Emanuel’s proposal would have a limited impact on reducing fatalities. Of the 251 pedestrian deaths in the city between 2005 and 2009, fewer than half occurred in the “safety zones” and less than one-quarter of those involved speeding.”

What do you think?

A New Way to Check for Cook County Warrants


Cook County Sheriff's Criminal Warrant Search

This weekend, someone e-mailed me with a question about a misdemeanor case that he had in Cook County a few years ago.  This person stopped going to court, and recently learned that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.  He wanted to know what could be done to resolve the situation.

Up until a few months ago, I would not have been able to tell him too much, until I went to the courthouse and reviewed the court file.  Now, however, thanks to Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, you or I can go to the Sheriff’s website and get information instantly.

The Sheriff’s new criminal warrant search allows you to check for an outstanding warrant.  The site will provide you with information about the warrant, most importantly, the amount of the bond that has been set.  Assuming a D bond has been set, ten percent of the bond amount will be required to be deposited in order to bond out.

The site also provides other information, including the reason for the warrant and the date it was issued.

There is also a link for child support warrants as well.

So, after a quick check of the Sheriff’s website, I was able to get back to the potential client armed with detailed knowledge about his case and the status of the warrant.

This is an excellent use of technology — it makes life much easier for defendants, victims, their families, and attorneys.  It also frees up court clerks and sheriff’s employees from having to pull files or answer phone calls about warrants.

Good job, Tom Dart!