SAFE-T Act earns support from local leaders

An amendment to the controversial SAFE-T Act was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and local elected officials voted to approve the legislation that expands the list of offenses in which a judge can deny pretrial release and specifies that police have the authority to arrest trespassers.

Pritzker signed the act on Dec. 6, five days after the General Assembly passed the legislation.

The state Senate passed the amendment by a 38-17 vote, and the House of Representatives voted 71-40 in favor.

In a news release, state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) said he now supports the legislation because of the changes.

“I voted against the SAFE-T Act when it passed nearly two years ago, and I have been working with law enforcement ever since to amend the law,” Cunningham said. “These latest changes make the law more workable for officers on the street.

“The changes to the bill make our communities safer and give law enforcement more clarity. I will continue to support those who keep us safe.”

State Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-27th) co-sponsored the bill, along with several other House members.

Other local officials voting to approve the amendment included state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th), state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) and state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), whose district will soon include part of North Beverly.

State Sen. Emil Jones III (D-14th) did not vote.

Hurley and Burke were among state representatives who previously voted against the bill.

The SAFE-T Act, originally passed in January 2021, is considered criminal justice-reform legislation. It takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

The latest amendment is the third of its kind since the bill’s initial passage.

The legislation does away with the cash-bail system. Instead, judges will weigh a person’s risk to the community in determining whether pretrial release will be revoked.

The latest amendment expands the list of offenses in which a judge can deny pretrial release. All forcible felonies can lead to pretrial detention regardless of whether the defendant would be eligible for probation if a judge deems the person a danger to the community.

Individuals accused of domestic violence may be held pretrial, and the amendment adds hate crimes, felony animal torture, aggravated DUI causing bodily harm, DUI while operating a school bus and other DUI charges as detainable offenses if the defendant is deemed dangerous.

The legislation states that residential burglary or burglary “where there is use of force against another person” are detainable under the danger standard.

However, if a burglary doesn’t meet those criteria, such as someone stealing change from an unlocked car, it’s not detainable based on an offender’s risk of harming the community.

The offense would still be detainable under a “willful flight” standard, and anyone already out on pretrial release can be detained when charged with any crime. Per the law, “willful flight” means “intentional conduct with a purpose to thwart the judicial process to avoid prosecution.”

The amendment also makes it clear that the changes take effect for those charged after Dec. 31, 2022. Those on the former bail system can petition the court to be placed into the new cash-free system on staggered timelines depending on the severity of their charges.

The amendment also clarifies that police may arrest trespassers; it instructs officers to issue a citation instead of making an arrest for cases below Class A demeanors but specifies that police may make an arrest if a suspect is a threat to the community or continues to break the law.

The amendment also clarifies judicial authority to revoke pretrial release if the defendant violates electronic-monitoring conditions, and it specifically states that penalties may be imposed for intentional tampering with monitoring devices.

Pritzker praised the legislation.

“I’m pleased that the General Assembly has passed clarifications that uphold the principle we fought to protect: to bring an end to a system where wealthy violent offenders can buy their way out of jail, while less fortunate nonviolent offenders wait in jail for trial,” he said in a prepared statement. “Advocates and lawmakers came together and put in hours of work to strengthen and clarify this law, uphold our commitment to equity, and keep people safe.”

No Republicans in the General Assembly voted yes on the latest version of the SAFE-T Act.

Democrats hold the majority in both houses.

“We understand that public safety is not a static issue,” said House Deputy Majority Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Democrat from Peoria, in a statement. “This legislation strengthens the underlying SAFE-T Act with valuable feedback from survivors, law enforcement, prosecutors and other public-safety advocates. If we want to make our communities safer, we have to work together. This update is a step in the right direction.”

Editor’s note: Capitol News Illinois, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government, contributed to this report.

News,Region: SW Chicago,Region: South Suburbs

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December 13, 2022 at 10:23AM

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