State’s attorney to Elgin council: Cashless bail is a move toward a better system

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With a Jan. 1, 2023, enforcement date looming on the Pre-Trial Fairness Act component of the SAFE-T Act, Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser said she hopes that changes to the bill in the State House can provide some clarity on how parts of the law should be enforced.

Signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year, the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act implements sweeping reform impacting many aspects of the criminal justice system, including pre-arrest diversion, policing, pretrial, sentencing, and corrections.

Mosser said the Pre-Trial Fairness Act (PFA), which is best known for eliminating cash bail, helps replace an “antiquated system.”

“We are moving toward a system that is actually better, that will detain people who should be detained,” she said.

Mosser said she and other state’s attorneys are negotiating with the sponsors of the House bill to make some changes that will hopefully eliminate areas open to interpretation and implementation.

One major issue open to interpretation is whether the PFA would be applied retroactively, which could lead to inmates currently in custody filing to be released. Mosser and Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain have said that could lead to the release of 82 inmates now in the Kane County jail.

Mosser said if there are no changes to the bill, Kane County plans to enforce the law proactively, not retroactively.

“We did a significant amount of research into this because the statute is silent on whether or not it’s January 1 forward or if it applies to anybody in our jail before,” she said. “The research to us is in the Kane County state’s attorney’s office is that this is only a prospective law.”

Mosser said she expects defense attorneys to start filing petitions when the new law is enacted to have their clients released. It will then be up to judges to interpret the law.

“We’ll have to see what the judges do,” she said, noting that many of her colleagues across the state are split on how to apply the law.

“Right now it’s going to be across-the-board different throughout the state of Illinois,” she said.

Mosser said Kane is one of three counties involved in a pilot program working on implementation of the PFA that will suggest to lawmakers on how to make the law better.

“We are advocating very strongly to have good changes that are put in to this,” she said, calling the elimination of cash bail “vitally important.”

Mosser said the positives of the law, such as the fact that people who commit serious crimes won’t be able to get out of jail simply because they have the money to get out, are being undersold.

“There are so many things in this law that are positive,” she said. “One of them is that a person who commits murder, sex assault, domestic violence, they are not walking out the door because they have cash in their pocket. That is not a fair system.”

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October 13, 2022 at 07:11AM

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