Judge to head panel on traffic bond

URBANA – A Champaign County judge regarded as an expert in traffic offenses, most notably driving under the influence, has been asked by the state's judges to take a fresh look at how bond is posted in traffic cases.

"The task is huge," Judge Jeff Ford said of his recent appointment by the Illinois Conference of Chief Circuit Judges.

"This is really important to the people of the state of Illinois. Everybody who drives in Illinois, whether a citizen or not, sooner or later those people get tickets. This job is to make recommendations to the Supreme Court as to who must appear, who doesn't have to appear in court, the amount of bonds, and how bonds are taken, among other things," said Ford, who chairs the subcommittee that will look at those issues.

"Right now if you got a ticket, the police officer could take your license as bond, a bond card, cash, or give you a notice to appear (in court at a later date). Research has shown that people don't come to court on notices to appear. Police do not like to take cash as bond because it causes too many problems. The driver's license is a form of identification that people don't like to give away, and not everyone has a bond card and sometimes they're not the right amount," Ford said of the negatives associated with the current bond system.

"My vision is to get us into the 21st century and have the rules written flexible enough that officers can take as bond credit cards, debit cards, an electronic type of bond because I believe the technology is going there," Ford said.

"We have to be able to put this all together. It's a huge task because the state is so big and diverse and different systems have different needs. We have to satisfy the needs of all counties, make it satisfactory to the public, and not overburden the courts," he said.

Ford estimated that the review would take months for his subcommittee, which includes three other judges, two circuit clerks, representatives of the Department of Transportation and the secretary of state, the state police, the state's attorney's appellate prosecutor's office, and the Cook County circuit clerk's traffic division.

Ford said the group plans to have its first meeting in February. Before then, he's hoping that he can pull together information on what other states are doing, how they're doing it and what works well.

"I want to take testimony from people in the computer and banking industries," he said. "I want to develop this so that in 20 years they can still use it."

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