Legislators file proposed changes to criminal justice law – Chicago Tribune

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SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday submitted proposed changes to controversial criminal justice measures slated to take effect on New Year’s Day.

Changes to some of the language of the sweeping reforms, known as the SAFE-T Act, were anticipated by the Democratic-controlled state legislature after the majority party found itself under attack by the law’s opponents in the months leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

Much of the opposition focused on the end of cash bail on Jan. 1. The proposed changes, filed by state Sen. Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat, attempt to clarify the process for detaining defendants once cash bail is eliminated on Jan. 1.

State Sen. Robert Peters speaks during a press conference regarding the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act (SAFE-T), which eliminates cash bonds for certain offenses including kidnapping.

State Sen. Robert Peters speaks during a press conference regarding the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act (SAFE-T), which eliminates cash bonds for certain offenses including kidnapping. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

The proposal would seek to ensure that prosecutors have enough time prepare for detention hearings where they’d have to convince judges that defendants, especially those accused of violent crimes, remain in custody.

Depending on the charges, the hearings would be held anywhere from seven to 90 days after prosecutors petition the court for one.

The proposal also seeks to clarify when police can arrest people for offenses such as trespassing that generally only require a ticket.

The clarification ensures that police can arrest someone for these crimes if they believe “the accused poses a threat to the community or any person” or if “criminal activity persists” after a ticket is written.

Opponents of the law had spread fears that it would empty county jails on Jan. 1, and allow trespassers to park on someone else’s property at the risk of nothing more than a ticket.

The law, even as originally written, however, requires judges to keep defendants behind bars to await trial if they are deemed to be a flight risk or a danger to the public. An Illinois Supreme Court task force is working to help criminal courts across the state prepare for the change.

This fall, about 60 state’s attorneys across Illinois, including some Democrats, joined a lawsuit against Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other top Democrats contending that the passage of the SAFE-T Act violated the Illinois Constitution. A Kankakee County judge could issue a ruling on the lawsuit as early as next month.

The proposed changes to the law, filed Wednesday in the state Senate, will likely be considered by the General Assembly before its scheduled adjournment on Thursday.

Peters, a sponsor of the original SAFE-T Act, was joined in filing Wednesday’s amendment by Democratic state Sen. Scott Bennett from Champaign, a former prosecutor who drafted his own proposed changes to the SAFE-T Act in September.

During Pritzker’s reelection campaign, the governor pointed to Bennett’s ideas as worthy of consideration, but advocates had pushed back on them as potentially undermining the intent of eliminating a cash bail system.

jgorner@chicagotribune.com

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via “Illinois Politics” – Google News https://ift.tt/wWNZDY4

November 30, 2022 at 02:21PM

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