Legislation would create system to keep Lake County crime victims informed of court events

  • Julie Morrison

    Julie Morrison

  • Eric Rinehart, Lake County state's attorney

    Eric Rinehart, Lake County state's attorney

Posted2/18/2022 5:22 AM

A plan to send automatic text messages about upcoming court events to witnesses and victims of crime in Lake County was introduced in the Illinois Legislature this week.

The plan calls for $50,000 in state money to fund a Lake County texting system for two years. If approved, it would go into effect July 1.


Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said he learned of a similar program that provides updates to defendants and decided they needed to try to get something like that for victims and witnesses. Rinehart brought his idea to state Sen. Julie Morrison, who brought the plan to the General Assembly and is its chief sponsor.

Contrary to how court cases often are depicted in movies and TV, there often are many court hearings over the course of months before a case goes to trial or is settled.

Victims and witnesses in Lake County are kept informed of developments in court cases by a staff of 12 full-time victim/witness coordinators from the Lake County state's attorney's office.

But Rinehart, a Highwood Democrat, said the texting system would help ease the burden on those staff members, who support more than 1,000 victims at a time. The coordinators provide many services to crime victims and educate them about how their own case will proceed through court.

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"Some of them have over 150 victims to contact," Rinehart said of the coordinators. "With this new program, they can prioritize individualized support while this system quickly delivers basic and accurate information to every victim and every witness."

If approved, officials said the Lake County texting program would offer an opportunity for other prosecutors' offices to learn and perhaps build on the program down the road.

Morrison, a Lake Forest Democrat, said the texting system would help make the court system as accessible as possible to victims of crime.

"This pilot program is innovative and will make a difference in how Lake County will be able to communicate with victims and their families," Morrison said.

The system also would be used to inform family members of victims of upcoming court events.

The bill is before a committee in the Illinois Senate and is yet to be voted on by either chamber of the General Assembly.

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