Holding criminal defendants in jail until trial proved difficult Monday, the first day without cash bail in Winnebago County Court.
Associate Court Judge Scott R. Paccagnini presided over the first "initial appearance court" proceeding in county history in which the judge by law could not set cash bail.
Instead Paccagnini either set conditions for release or was forced to weigh each defendant's potential flight risk and danger to individuals or the community.
Over five hours, Paccagnini presided over 26 defendant appearances ranging from domestic battery to endangering the life of a child. Of those, Winnebago County State's Attorney J. Hanley asked Paccagnini to detain nine defendants after an arrest over the weekend.
Paccagnini declined to detain all but two saying that measures like "no contact orders" and other pretrial release conditions should be sufficient to protect the community.
Hanley, who previously expressed concern over the new laws regarding pretrial release, said it went about how he had expected.
"I was almost nervous about the uncertainty of today, but all in all it was fairly uneventful," Hanley said. "We did the best we could and enforced the law."
Four of 26 detained
Paccagnini agreed to order at least four defendants to be held in jail who were arrested while already on probation or pretrial release stemming from unrelated other crimes or charges. And two more had detention hearings delayed until Tuesday morning.
Hanley told the judge he could not petition to deny several defendants release because their charges were "non-detainable." Others, he did seek to jail before trial.
A woman arrested for driving under the influence was released before trial with a warning not to drive without a valid license. A man accused of beating up his mother's boyfriend and charged with felony aggravated battery was released with orders not to have contact with the man.
A South Beloit man accused of endangering the life of a child and possession of firearms without a FOID card after a 10-year-old was shot and killed was released before trial with orders not go near the home or have contact with his wife or children.
'Justice should not be fee-based'
In the past, it is possible all of the defendants would have had at least some monetary bond set and would have had to pay 10% of that amount as bail to be released from jail before trial. The Pretrial Fairness Act which was recently found to be Constitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court ended that practice.
It went into effect for the first time on Monday.
A group of clergy including the Rev. K. Edward Copeland, activists and members of the Rockford Urban Ministries joined Illinois state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, to celebrate the end of cash bail before the first court call.
"Justice should not be fee-based," Copeland said. "Money should not determine if you have access to freedom."
Winnebago County Public Defender Nick Zimmerman, who last week praised the end of cash bail, challenged the constitutionality of denying bail to four defendants accused of misdemeanor domestic battery. The Constitution says all but capital offenses and those punishable by life in prison are "bailable by sufficient sureties."
Judge Paccagnini rejected the arguments citing legal precedents and the recent Illinois Supreme Court case that found the Pretrial Fairness Act to be Constitutional.
"Those are questions that will likely be resolved by the appellate courts in the coming weeks," Hanley said.
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: End of cash bail means Rockford defendants mostly go free before trial