Justice For All

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Justice for All

February, 2021

Dear Lake County residents and leaders, 

In my first Justice For All newsletter as Lake County State's Attorney, I would like to offer my background and some of the new directions the office will be taking to ensure we are striving toward a safer county and one that offers equal treatment to all residents. I will continue to update and inform you of new developments as they arise. Please feel free to contact us at any time. 

Yours truly,


Building Safer Communities and a Fairer Justice System


"Safety. Equality. Transparency." New Lake State's Attorney Eric Rinehart pledged that these ideals will be the pillars of his new administration. 

“We must make Lake County safer and our courthouse fairer. I have worked for 17 years in Lake County courtrooms, and I know we can better serve the people of this county. And we will,” the State’s Attorney said this week.

“We have already started to put together an experienced, diverse, and motivated team of attorneys and outreach specialists who will take this mission to all parts of the county."

To combat a rising violent crime rate, Rinehart has created a Violent Crimes Unit, which will focus on vertical prosecution as a new strategy under which our prosecutors will start working with law enforcement on 'night one' of an offense. He has already re-started the Domestic Violence Unit and assigned experienced felony prosecutors to that division. 

More generally, the State’s Attorney said he wants his office to prioritize “crimes with victims,” which, in addition to violence, can include scams taking advantage of the elderly and the poor.

Police have said that in addition to its other negative effects, the pandemic has opened a new pathway for financial predators to take advantage of those who are already frightened and unsure of how to protect themselves and their assets.

State’s Attorney Rinehart also identified as a top priority the elimination of systemic racism in the justice system.

"The Black Lives Matter movement is not just about eliminating (racial) profiling, but also about making sure that victims of color are not ignored," Rinehart said. “The victims don’t feel connected, and we need to change this.”

“We want to intelligently fight crime in the short term and the long term. We can do this while also reducing racial and economic disparities in the courthouse,” he said. “We will work together with our partners in law enforcement to develop new and creative crime-fighting strategies, while also using statistics and implicit bias training to expose and reduce inequality.”

"We also need to rebuild the trust between our courthouse and our communities, especially in less affluent areas," the State’s Attorney said. "Hopefully, we can foster more participation in programs designed to help those in lower-income neighborhoods, while at the same time developing a long-term vision for crime reduction."

Rinehart hopes to expand specialty courts, which offer a potential alternative to prison for non-violent offenders who are suffering with substance abuse disorder or mental health problems. “If we can expand these programs, we can not only help more people who are willing to address their problems, but we can also reduce crime and save taxpayer money on incarceration costs.”  

As part of his new leadership team, Rinehart hired and appointed Sharmila Manak, a former public defender, to the position of First Assistant, Chief Deputy of the Office’s Criminal Division. Manak is both the first woman and the first minority to hold that position in Lake County.

“She’s been a fantastic partner in this transition toward a more transparent and innovative office,” the State’s Attorney said.

Rinehart stressed the importance of public transparency and fighting bias, whether conscious or unconscious. He said all prosecutors in the office will undergo intensive bias training, and that statistics will be kept “to prevent unconscious bias in all of our decisions.”

“We must always do more than simply hope our system is fair in terms of how our minorities are treated,” Rinehart said. “Our mission must be a daily quest to fight for equal treatment, even if each of us has to work harder to make it happen.”

State’s Attorney Rinehart lives in Highwood with his family, and he has practiced law in Lake County for nearly two decades.

“We love Lake County, and I’m humbled to serve,” Rinehart said. “I’ve spent 17 years working for my clients in the courtroom, and now I look forward to fighting for all of the people in Lake County."

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State's Attorney Rinehart Addresses Justice Reform Bill

Lake County is facing a dual crisis: a rise in violent crime over the last eight years and a deterioration of trust in the justice system. I decided to run for State’s Attorney to confront these challenges by building a transparent and innovative office dedicated to making our communities safer and our courthouse fairer. 

Recently, the Illinois General Assembly passed a criminal justice reform package, HB3653, which earned near unanimous support among our Lake County legislators. Several victims’ advocacy groups, including the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, support this bill.

Included in the package were  common-sense reforms, such as mandating body-worn cameras for all police departments, preserving police misconduct records, expanding de-escalation training for law enforcement officers , connecting mental health and substance abuse providers with First Responders, and ending the use of cash as the determining factor in pre-trial release. Because these changes are long overdue, and because they make our streets safer and our system fairer, I support the bill.

There are many false statements on social media and beyond about the final version of this bill. These false claims by special interests and others do not serve the public interest and are only meant to protect those unwilling to make these necessary reforms. This bill does not eliminate qualified immunity or limit collective bargaining, nor does it defund the police. I join the public in praising the service, courage, and sacrifice of our police officers. 

As a father and public servant, I am committed to making sure our county and our officers remain safe. And that’s exactly what this bill does: increase safety. 

Mandating body cameras for all police departments will protect officers by preventing false claims of abuse and protect civilians by ensuring that our justice system is transparent and accountable. The 28 Lake County law enforcement agencies that do not currently have body camera systems have until 2025 to implement their programs. I have urged legislators to help fund these systems immediately. 

The provisions to “end cash bail” will make Lake County safer by making sure that the most dangerous individuals remain in custody. What to do with someone accused of a crime before a trial is a centuries-old question that brings into conflict our commitment to the presumption of innocence and our need for safe communities. But allowing wealth to unlock the jailhouse is not the fair or transparent way to strike this critical balance. 

Currently, after an arrest, a judge analyzes whether the arrestee poses a public safety or flight risk. After considering the nature of the criminal charge and the arrestee's background, the judge sets a monetary amount that must be posted to be freed pending trial.  The current system allows those with wealth to use their money to obtain release --- even if they are dangerous --- while those who are poor may remain in custody, even if they are not.

Under the new system, which will be effective in 2023, the same judges will look at the same factors, but will simply rule whether someone is released (with conditions) or held in custody pending trial. Money will play no role. Arrestees who pose a risk to the community, according to the judge, will be detained in jail; those who do not will be released. A similar, non-monetary bail system has been utilized successfully in Illinois’s juvenile courts and our nation’s federal courts since 1984. 

Except for the body-camera mandate, and the cash bail reforms, these provisions will go into effect on July 1, if Governor Pritzker signs the bill. While this bill may not be perfect, it is long past time to implement these solutions that make our criminal justice system safer and fairer for all.  Our country’s strength is grounded in our ability to work together, and I am working with local police chiefs and legislators on some revisions that need to be completed prior to implementation. Our shared goal remains: protecting the community while fulfilling our oaths to the Constitution and its uncompromising demand that justice and transparency reach all corners of our society.

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