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Bonding out of Chicagoland: A Comparative Overview of Posting Bail Bonds in Illinois

Posted by CTM Legal Group | Jul 10, 2023 | 0 Comments

By: Paralegal Emma Tasch (formerly Sliwinski)

Bail bonds have served an integral role in the United States's justice system since the founding of the nation and even during pre-colonial times. On its face, the practice of bail bonds appears rather simple: a defendant or a defendant's representative third party pays a sum to the sheriff's office of the jurisdiction in which the defendant was arrested and thus, allows the defendant to reside within society throughout the course of his or her legal proceeding under certain conditions. However, like the United States' legal system as a whole, the use of bail bonds has evolved overtime and only has become more complicated rather than simpler. In Illinois, the procedures for posting bail bonds in Cook County and the surrounding Chicagoland counties vary among one another. Therefore, to understand more fully the how the practice of bail bonds works in the one of the most populated regions of Illinois, it is worth discussing and comparing the bail bond procedures of the counties that constitute the Chicagoland area of the state.

Bail Bonds: Definition and Types

In the most general sense, a bond is “An obligation [or] a promise that is defeasible upon a condition subsequent.” Bond, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). The bonds that most commonly occur in criminal matters are bail bonds, which are bonds “given to a court by a criminal defendant's surety to guarantee that the defendant will duly appear in court in the future and, if the defendant is jailed, to obtain the defendant's release.” Bail Bond, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). The “condition subsequent” in bail bonds often comes in monetary payment to the local sheriff's office, who then transfers the bond money to the local court. When paying their monetary bonds, defendants usually are faced with fulfilling either cash bonds or deposit bonds. Cash bonds, commonly called C-bonds in Illinois, require a defendant or a representative third party to pay the full amount of the bail that is set statutorily or by a judge. These bonds typically are offered to defendants who bails stand at $120 or less. Chicago Police Department, Bail Bond Manual: General Bonding Procedures, (last visited Jul. 5, 2023). Deposit bonds, also known in Illinois as D-bonds, permit defendants to pay only 10% of the bail that is set statutorily or by a judge. These bonds normally are offered to defendants whose bails are set higher than $120. Additionally, deposit bonds can only be paid by a defendant; a representative third-party cannot render the required 10% of the deposit bond on behalf of the defendant. Id.

A third type of bail bond that applies to nearly a third of all defendants is known as personal recognizance. Personal recognizance refers to “The release of a defendant in a criminal case in which the court takes the defendant's word that he or she will appear for a scheduled matter or [when he or she is] told to appear.” Personal Recognizance, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). In Illinois, releases on personal recognizance commonly are known as I-bonds and have increased in popularity in Illinois since the enactment of the SAFE-T Act in January of this year. This type of bail bond is particularly helpful for indigent criminal defendants and defendants who have been charged with petty offenses or select misdemeanors.

Bail Bond Procedures in Cook County and the Chicagoland Counties

At the base, bail bond procedures across the Chicagoland counties follow the same statutory protocols. For instance, for any defendant released on bail in Illinois, he or she at the very least must 1) “Appear to answer the charge in the court having jurisdiction” over the defendant's case, 2) “Submit himself or herself to the orders and process of the [presiding] court,” and 3) “Not violate any criminal statute of any jurisdiction.” 725 ILCS 5/110-10. A judge may add special conditions to a defendant's bond in addition to these mandatory conditions if he or she sees that it is necessary for a particular defendant. Id. Additionally, in cases in which a defendant utilizes a deposit bond, a defendant may allow 90% of his or her bail deposit or the amount that is repayable to the defendant to be paid to the defendant's attorney at the conclusion of the defendant's case to help cover any accrued attorneys' fees. 725 ILCS 5/110-7.5. However, despite these similarities that apply to all counties within Illinois, the counties of Cook and the counties in the surrounding Chicagoland area nonetheless differ in quite notable ways.

Cook County

In Cook County, defendants in custody or their family and friends may post bail bonds at the Cook County jail seven days a week—including holidays—any time between 9am and 8:30pm. If a defendant's family and friends are not able to travel to the City of Chicago to pay a bail bond at the Cook County Jail, then they may post a defendant's bond at one of the five suburban district courts in Cook County Monday through Friday—excluding holidays—between the hours of 8:30am and 3pm. Bail bonds at the Cook County Jail or any of the suburban Cook County courthouses may be paid with U.S. cash, a bank check, or a cashier's check. However, if paying with a credit or debit card, a defendant's bail bond only can be posted at the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois. Additionally, when paying with a credit or debit card, a 2.13% processing fee will be added to the bail bond amount, making the total transaction slightly higher than the amount listed on a defendant's bond sheet. Furthermore, if a representative third party is paying the bail bond on behalf of a defendant, the third-party payor must present his or her photo I.D. Bonding, Cook County Sheriff's Office, (last visited Jul. 5, 2023).

Once a defendant's bail bond is posted, the Cook County Sheriff takes about two to three hours to process that defendant's discharge documents. A third-party payor may attempt to expedite the discharge process by filling out the online form that is found on the Cook County Sheriff's website. However, if the court has ordered that a defendant be placed on electronic monitoring, the discharge process can take up to three days to fully complete before a defendant actually steps foot outside the Cook County Jail. Id.

Chicagoland Counties

The suburban counties that constitute the Chicagoland area follow a few of the same procedures as Cook County: a photo I.D. is needed if a representative third party is posting a defendant's bail bond, payments must be made in person, and a processing fee will be added to the bond amount if a defendant or his/her third-party payor is paying with a credit or debit card. However, despite these similarities, the bail bond procedures of these suburban counties significantly differ from Cook County's procedures in various ways. For instance, unlike in Cook County, which has designated specific hours when bail bonds can be posted, bail bonds in most of the Chicagoland suburban counties can be posted 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at the local sheriff's offices. Additionally, many of the sheriff's offices in these counties will not accept checks; bail bonds only can be posted with cash or a credit/debit card.

Furthermore, in contrast to Cook County, most of the sheriff's offices in the Chicagoland suburban counties will add a processing fee (one that is separate from a credit/debit card fee) to the established bond amount. This additional processing fee can range between $28 to $100. Therefore, it is crucial that a defendant or a third-party payor prepare to pay a significantly higher amount than the amount listed on a defendant's bond sheet when fulfilling a bail bond. In addition, unlike in Cook County, where the discharge process may be expedited by filling out the online form found on the Cook County Sheriff's website, the suburban counites of Chicagoland do not offer such an option. Consequently, the discharge process for a defendant bonding out of a suburban jail outside Cook County can last several hours, whether or not a defendant has been placed on electronic monitoring.


Whether a defendant or a representative third party is paying a bail bond in Cook County or a suburban county in the Chicagoland area, it is clear that the general bail bond procedure involves various steps and requires numerous considerations, including the acceptable method of payment for a bail bond and whether the discharge process will take a couple hours, several hours, or even a few days to complete. While the bail bond procedures for Cook County and most of the Chicagoland counties can be found on the websites of the counties' sheriff's offices, there is always the possibility that there are details or aspects of a county's bail bond procedures that may not be apparent to a defendant or his or her third party payor. Therefore, if you or someone you know has been arrested and has questions or concerns about posting bond, CTM Legal Group can help. Contact our office by calling 312-818-6700 if you wish to speak to an attorney about questions or concerns regarding posting a bail bond.

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