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Bails, Bonds and Bounty Hunters

The term “bounty hunter” brings to mind two different faces: a freakishly large man named “Dog” and Boba Fett, a fictional Star Wars character. In truth, they both represent the occupation of bail bondsmen. Illinois law prohibits bail bondsmen, but many states do not. However, all criminal and traffic offenses in Illinois still require bail, or bond. There is typically some confusion about this among law enforcement and the trucking industry as it pertains to truck violations. This article will help dispel some of the misconceptions and improper instruction of years past.

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Bail and bond are for the most part synonymous and interchangeable. Bail is more commonly aligned when cash is posted, and bond is when a signature or property is posted as collateral. It’s a foolish argument to waste much time on. They both serve the same purpose – to guarantee someone comes to court to answer the charges brought against them.

Bail and bond are under the authority of the Illinois Supreme Court, not the General Assembly. The Supreme Court is divided into several committees, and the Article V committee is responsible for bail and bond for traffic, petty, ordinance and misdemeanor offenses. There is no argument that the Supreme Court Rules can be difficult to read and follow. Because of this, several misconceptions occur.

Misconception #1: I-bonds cannot be issued for overweight violations This rumor has circulated jailhouses and courthouses for years and is entirely incorrect. Yes, Supreme Court Rule 526(b)(1) allows for cash bail to be posted for overweight violation in the full amount of the fine. Given the fact that some fines can be in the tens-of-thousands of dollars, it may be next to impossible to collect. You can’t get blood from a turnip. Therefore the Supreme Court allows for I-bonds, also known as “individual”, “recognizance” or “signature” bonds.

The I-bond allows the offender to be released on their signature for the full amount of the bail. The authority to do so is listed in Supreme Court Rule 501(h) and 553(d). Failure to appear after an I-bond has been issued will result in a bond forfeiture conviction and the driver’s license will be suspended. Truckers, I-bonds are not a right…they are at the discretion of the arresting officer or judge. Police officers, be reasonable and remember the job is enforcement, not revenue collection.

Misconception #2: The full statutory fine can be collected as bail for all truck violations This misconception is born out of moneylust from law enforcement. Only overweight violations of Chapter 15 (axle,gross,etc) and Chapter 3 (registration) allow for the full statutory fine to be posted as bail. All other violations are treated as “Minor Traffic Offenses” with cash bail equal to $120, Rule 526(b)(1).

There are other minor truck violations, such as oversize and violation of permit, where statute allows for a fine greater than $120. This does not give police officers authority to collect that money as bail though. If they wish to collect the maximum fine, then the officer may assign a court date and ask the judge to levy the higher fine.

Misconception #3: All overweight fines can be collected as “one big bail” For many years, law enforcement was incorrectly instructed (not by the ITEA) to combine the fines of multiple overweight citations and collect them into “one big bail”. There are two problems with this. First, it was not until December 7th, 2011 that the maximum fine could be collected as bail for Chapter 3 (registration) overweight violations. This change occurred after the ITEA spent nearly 18 months petitioning the Supreme Court to allow for it. For all the years prior, police officers were unlawfully collecting it anyhow without authority due to faulty training.

The second problem is combining bails for multiple overweight violations has always been prohibited by Supreme Court Rule 503(a)(2). Each overweight violation requires its own bail, and any other violations are combined under the $120 minor traffic offense bail. For instance, if a police officer issues three citations for overweight on gross, overweight on registration, and a safety test violation, there would be three separate bails.

It’s a deep and confusing topic for sure, but sometimes the easy understanding is not reading too much into it. Police procedure and methodology can always be supported with authoritative information. Be wary of those operating outside of it…they may look more like bounty hunters than police officers.

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