More than a dozen provisions in a criminal-justice equity bill spearheaded by Black lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker — including sections dealing with police misconduct records and officers’ use of force — take effect Thursday.
The sections are part of both the SAFE-T Act (Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity — Today), signed into law in February and follow-up legislation signed into law in June.
Additional laws that take effect July 1 include one that deals with pretrial interest costs in wrongful-death lawsuits.
The criminal-justice legislation, passed in the lame-duck session this year and during the General Assembly’s spring session, was championed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
The caucus successfully pushed through wide-ranging legislation on criminal justice and economic, educational and health care disparities in response to the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police and other racial strife nationwide.
Required to track, report incidents
Beginning Thursday, police in Illinois must track and report to the state when they respond to incidents involving mental-health crises, shoot their guns at people or use force that results in death or serious injury.
The law puts into statute rules for when a police officer can use force or deadly force, including chokeholds. The original bill’s provisions on the use of force were clarified through follow-up legislation at the request of law enforcement groups.
The law says police are required to render medical aid and, according to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, “mandates an affirmative duty to intervene or stop or prevent another peace officer in his or her presence from using any unauthorized use of force or force that exceeds the degree of force permitted under the law.”
Police misconduct records must be maintained by police departments permanently under the legislation, “no-knock” warrants are allowed “if the interaction is recorded or if body-worn cameras are in use.”
Some suspensions rescinded
The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office is required by the new law to rescind suspensions of driver’s licenses if suspensions were caused by failure to pay traffic fines or penalties.
Advocates of the law say Blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to have suspended licenses for failure to pay a fine or fee, and the situation can affect their ability to be employed.
A different law in 2020 ended future suspensions of driver’s licenses for non-moving-related vehicle violations such as unpaid parking tickets.
The criminal justice law also requires all police to be equipped with body cameras, but that provision doesn’t kick in until 2025 at the latest.
The centerpiece of the legislation, the elimination of Illinois’ cash bail system, doesn’t take effect until 2023.
Pre-trial interest payments
Also taking effect today is a law that, for the first time in Illinois, adds prejudgment interest costs on any wrongful-death or personal-injury lawsuit rulings issued by a judge or jury.
Before the new law took effect, annual interest payments of as much as 9% were added to monetary awards between the time a judgment was rendered by a judge or jury and when the judgment was paid.
The new law grants 6% annual interest on money awarded in the state court system to plaintiffs in personal-injury and wrongful-death civil lawsuits dating back to the time the lawsuit was filed.
The interest payments, both before and after the new law took effect, didn’t apply to out-of-court settlements.
Advocates of the new law said it will encourage more defendants to settle out of court with plaintiffs rather than defendants using their financial resources to delay the resolution of cases for years.
However, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Illinois State Medical Society said the law would drive up medical malpractice insurance costs.
Mark Denzler, the manufacturers’ association president and chief executive officer, said the law also will boost out-of-court settlements because of the indirect pressure that plaintiffs’ lawyers can apply in settlement negotiations.
Higher malpractice premiums for doctors could result in doctors leaving the state or not setting up practices in Illinois, a situation that could affect the financial viability of hospitals in certain parts of the state, Denzler said.
More than 40 states apply some form of pretrial interest for court decisions in these cases, but Denzler said Illinois, unlike the other states, doesn’t have caps on damages.
Pritzker vetoed an earlier version of the legislation that set the annual pretrial interest at 9%. The governor said 9% was too high.
Contact Dean Olsen: email@example.com; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.
via The State Journal-Register
June 30, 2021 at 07:00PM