Illinois Senate tweaks SAFE-T Act weeks before it becomes law

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Illinois Senate voted 38 in favor, and 17 against a "trailer bill" meant to clarify parts of the law that will eliminate cash bail on January 1st, 2023.

The 300-page amendment now heads to the House.

The Senate Democratic Caucus says any person charged on or after January 1st will have their pre-trial release determined under the new system. Anyone charged prior to then will remain under the current system, but they can try to have their case heard under the new rules.

"Illinois, on January 1st, 2023, we will make history civil rights history one all of us can look back at with pride," said Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th).

Former gubernatorial candidate Sen. Darren Bailey (R-55th) said, "It’s a slap in the face to every voter, it’s a slap in the face for every business owner, it’s a slap in the face to every police officer and it’s a slap in the face even to our state’s attorney’s who obviously don’t have a voice here."

Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley) said, “It is like painting over a rotting wall. The changes might make it look better at first but eventually, the end result of the SAFE-T Act is that Illinois families will be less safe in their own communities.”

State’s attorneys from all across the state have filed suit against the SAFE-T Act, calling for its abolishment. A Kankakee County judge is expected to rule on the suit by December 15th.

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act, or the SAFE-T Act, was introduced by the Illinois Black Caucus as part of Black legislators’ response to the murder of George Floyd, and was passed by the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives in the early hours of Jan. 13, 2021.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill into law on Feb. 22 of that year, whereupon it became known as Public 101-0652.

The act abolishes the money bail system beginning Jan. 1, 2023. 

According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the cash bail system disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities and other underrepresented or impoverished groups, who can’t afford bond.

Someone who is arrested after Jan. 1 may be released prior to their trial, based on the assumption of innocence guaranteed in the United States Constitution. However, a judge will have the power to determine whether a person should be released based on a public safety evaluation rather than the size of the defendant’s wallet.

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December 1, 2022 at 05:33PM

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