In response to a significant spike in “failure to appear in court” cases in the collar counties, State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) is championing a new bill that stiffens penalties for bail jumpers who would rather flee from justice than make their court-ordered appearances.
HB 5980, filed this week in Springfield, seeks to amend the Bail Reform Act that took effect on January 1 of this year. “The Bail Reform Act was part of a nation-wide movement to improve pre-trial practices, but unfortunately we are now seeing some unforeseen negative consequences of the legislation,” said Reick. “The Chief Sponsor of HB 5980 reported an 83% jump in Category A offenders— these are people charged with serious crimes like aggravated assault, domestic battery and burglary— who are jumping bail in nearby DuPage County. I spoke to McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, and he said his office has also seen a sharp increase in cases of failure to appear in court. These numbers are a clear indication that we are no longer properly incentivizing people to show up to face charges brought against them.”
Through HB 5980, proposed changes to the Bail Reform Act include:
- Individuals who are out on bail and fail to appear in court would be charged with a failure to appear offense of the same Class (instead of the next lower Class) of the original crime with which he/she has been charged
- Failure to appear offenders would not be eligible for probation for bail jumping
While supportive of the provisions of HB 5980, Kenneally said he hopes an amendment to the bill or a separate piece of legislation can address another unintended consequence of the new Act. “The Bail Reform Act significantly reduces our ability to fight the opioid epidemic,” said Kenneally. “An opioid abuser if released from jail on bond will continue to use opioids and, if necessary, commit crime to fund their habit. Releasing opioid abusers early and before they are required to access services also increases their risk of an overdose. The two most recent overdose cases involve two opioid abusers being released on bond after only a few weeks in jail due to the Bail Reform Act. While in jail, their opioid tolerance was reduced. After being let out and with reduced tolerance, they overdosed and died.”
Reick said he would work with Kenneally to address his concerns with bail provisions for opioid abusers.