Cash Bail Set to End in Illinois in 2023. Here’s What That Means

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After months of debate and numerous changes to the final product, the SAFE-T Act in Illinois is set to abolish cash bail beginning on Jan. 1.

Recent revisions to the controversial legislation were approved by the Illinois Senate and the House, and Pritzker’s office announced he had signed the legislation earlier this month.

The amendments focused largely on clarifying language on several fronts, including whether defendants detained prior to Jan. 1 will be released once the legislation goes into effect, and making clear which crimes would qualify for pretrial detention.

Illinois’ Senate Democratic Caucus said the clarifications to the bill were made in “collaboration with law enforcement, states attorneys and other stakeholders.”

The bill passed largely on a party-line vote in both chambers, with Republicans still voicing opposition to the final make-up of the legislation.

A legal challenge is still pending against the law, with state’s attorneys from around Illinois arguing that the legislation is unconstiutional because the concept of bail is enshrined in the Illinois constitution. Arguments were also made that the bill did not receive the required amount of debate before passage.

Pending the outcome of that challenge, the “Pretrial Fairness Act” that was included in the omnibus “SAFE-T Act” is scheduled to take effect Sunday, and here’s what we know about that process.

What Exactly Does the End of Cash Bail Mean?

Until now, those detained for crimes in Illinois would be assigned a bail amount to get out of pretrial detention. That amount would vary based on the severity of the crime, and any person who was able to post 10% of that amount would be released pending trial.

Under the new law, defendants will instead face a hearing to determine whether or not they will be detained before their trial. The decision would be based on the severity and type of crime that an individual stands accused of, and would also take into account whether the defendant would be considered a threat to public safety, or would be likely to flee if freed from detention.

Proponents of the legislation say that it is a more equitable system than allowing those with money to be freed from detention, while critics say that the process would overly tax the judicial system and could result in the release of individuals accused of serious crimes.

What Crimes Would Qualify for Detention?

The list of so-called “forcible felonies” that could invite judicial discretion on pretrial detention originally included first and second-degree murder, predatory criminal sexual assault, robbery, burglary, residential burglary, aggravated arson, arson, kidnapping, aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm, or any other felony that involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual.

But the latest proposal adds non-probationable felonies, forcible felonies, hate crimes, attempts of crimes that are otherwise detainable, and others to the so-called detention net — crimes that qualify a suspect for detention. Additions include offenses that require jail or prison time, and not probation; all forcible felonies; hate crimes, animal torture and DUI causing great bodily harm. Judges may also choose to release such suspects.

What Happens to Those Currently Detained on Jan. 1?

According to a spokesperson for Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s office, the new language would clarify that “those currently detained can request to have the new system applied to their situation.”

In order to make the process “manageable for courts,” legislators proposed a tiered system for granting hearings on such requests. The hearings would then determine whether a current detainee should be released. The tiers would include:

  • Non-violent crimes and lowest level offenses (example: petty shoplifting) hearings must be within 7 days of request.
  • Those detained but considered flight risks would get hearings within 60 days.
  • Those charged with violent crimes like murder and sexual assault, and those considered to be potential threats to safety get hearings within 90 days.

Can Police Detain or Arrest Someone who is Trespassing?

For trespassing violations, officers would be required to issue a citation to a suspect first, unless the officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses a threat, or if they have an obvious mental or medical health issue. If an officer issues a citation and the trespassing continues, then an arrest can be made.

Under the new amendment, an officer can arrest someone for trespassing if:

  • The person poses a threat to the community or any person;
  • Arrest is necessary because criminal activity persists after issuance of the citation; or
  • The accused has an obvious medical or mental health issue that poses a risk to their safety.

If the above conditions are not present, a citation would be issued.

What Determines if a Person is Considered “Dangerous”?

The proposed changes also expand definitions for “willful flight,” and expand judicial discretion in determining whether a defendant poses a danger to the public or a specific individual.

According to Harmon’s office, the amendment “makes consistent throughout the entire act what a prosecutor must show to detain an individual on grounds the individual is a threat.”

The so-called “dangerousness standard” would be met if “the person poses a real and present threat to any person or persons or the community, based on the specific, explainable facts of the case.”

What if Someone Misses a Court Date?

Also included in the new proposal is a provision that allows judges to issue arrest warrants or summons when someone misses a court date.

A summons is an official notice to appear in court, while an arrest warrant tells police to arrest and detain, officials stated.

The amendment also clarifies what is considered “willful flight” under the bill, adding that “intent is to detain those who are actively evading prosecution, not someone who failed to appear in court because, for example, they missed their bus,” Harmon’s office said.

Here is the full text of amendment to the bill:

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Region: Chicago,Local,City: Chicago

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December 27, 2022 at 03:55PM

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