Illinois SAFE-T Act 2023: Lawmakers address concerns about controversial bill about cash bail

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CHICAGO (WLS) — Lawmakers took action Thursday to address concerns about the controversial SAFE-T Act, in particular, the provisions about bail and detention.

The Pre-Trial Fairness portion of the law will go into effect on January 1 and will eliminate cash bail.

The revised version of the Pretrial Fairness Act passed out of the Illinois Senate on party lines. Now, it is in the House, where it is also expected to pass.

Democrats are working to clean up a bill that drew a lot of Republican criticism during the election season.

However, amidst concerns that some dangerous criminals could be released, Democrats amended the bill. It expands the list of detainable offenses and also outlines what prosecutors have to show a judge in order to get a defendant held pending trial.

RELATED | Ministers rally against ‘misinformation’ on SAFE-T Act; ex-prosecutor says concerns are valid

“They should only be detained something about the offense they are accused of suggests that they pose a real and present threat to others. Prosecutors are required to articulate exactly what that threat is,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Robert Peters, (D) Chicago.

However, in the Senate, the debate got very partisan at times.

“I believe today culminates, in my opinion, the most frustrating and disgusting, embarrassing day in Illinois’ history. It’s a slap in the face to every voter,” State Sen. Darren Bailey, (R) Louisville.

“The hypocrisy of my friends on the other side of the aisle is, if you want to talk about disgusting, let’s talk about the way you will not participate in the process but then demean the same,” said Sen. Elgie Sims, (D) Chicago.

RELATED: Lawmakers criticize potential financial burden Safe-T Act poses to local governments

The bill also clarifies several other issues, including that police can arrest someone for trespassing and that judges can issue arrest warrants when someone misses court.

With Democrats holding supermajorities in both the Senate and the House, Republicans continued to criticize the process, even going after the governor.

“There are substantive changes that are being made because of the harm, putting the public at risk as a result of the SAFE-T Act in the first place. So governor, why’d you sign the law in the first place and put the public at risk,” said State Senate Minority Caucus Chair Jason Barickman, (R) Bloomington.

RELATED | Illinois law eliminating cash bail has some in law enforcement concerned

Democrats said that making these changes to how criminal cases will now be handled has been a process that has worked.

“It’s not perfect now but we can continue to work toward the concerns of the public and every single policy area, including criminal law, and I think this bill largely does that,” said Senator Scott Bennett, (D) Champaign.

This revised bill also creates a 3-tiered system for current defendants to request release after January 1. It does not happen automatically.

Hearings will have to be conducted between seven and 90 days, depending on the seriousness of the case.

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December 1, 2022 at 05:52PM

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