The recently enacted Illinois SAFE-T Act has been surrounded with a lot of questions from residents. Are they defunding the Police? Does this mean criminals are being released into the streets? Am I safe? While these new laws can stir up quite the controversy, we’re here to simply tell you everything you need to know.
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act (SAFE-T Act) was passed on January 13th, 2021 and signed into law on February 22, 2021 by Gov. JB Pritzker becoming known as Public 101-0652. While some of the provisions under the SAFE-T Act went into effect in 2021 and 2022, the elimination of cash bail was set to go into effect on January 1, 2023.
When does the SAFE-T Act go into effect?
On December 28th, 2022, a Kankakee County Judge ruled with 65 of Illinois’ 102 States Attorneys that the SAFE-T Act is unconstitutional in nature. Just days after this ruling and hours before the SAFE-T Act was set to go into effect, the Illinois Supreme Court made a temporary order staying the SAFE-T Act’s end of cash bail in Illinois in order to “maintain consistent pre-trial procedures throughout Illinois”.
This temporary order is set in place until the appeal on the ruling can be processed and the trial can be held. While there is no court date set, justices have announced their plans for an “expedited process” to review the appeal. This places the Act on hold in Illinois.
Laws before the SAFE-T Act
Under laws in effect before January 1, 2023, all persons arrested must be taken without delay to the nearest judge in the county regardless of offense. The SAFE-T Act removes the need to arrest for non-detainable offenses such as Class A misdemeanors and instead these offenders will be given a summon to appear in front of a judge within 21 days.
Release on recognizance:
Before the SAFE-T Act, the judge would determine the amount of bail required to go free until trial. Additionally, the court held the right to release the defendant without bail if they met three requirements:
The court finds the defendant will appear as required before or after conviction.
The defendant does not pose a danger to any person or the community.
The defendant complies with all conditions of bond.
Monetary bail is only to be used in cases when there is no other condition of release where the defendant will reasonably appear in court and they pose no real danger to a person or the community.
SAFE-T Act Changes
Release on recognizance:
Under the SAFE-T Act, the defendant can only be detained if they pose a specific, real and present threat to a person or has a high likelihood of flight. Additionally, prosecutors must prove the defendant poses a specific, real and present threat in order to deny pre-trial release.
The words “specific, real and present threat” are not defined under the Act. This makes it difficult for the court systems and prosecutors alike to interpret the law in a meaningful and consistent manner. This is one of the many disagreements around the SAFE-T Act where over half of the 102 Illinois state’s attorneys filed lawsuits over the Act saying the Act is unconstitutionally vague. Many also agree the Act was placed into effect prematurely without the time for lawmakers to know what they were voting for.
In order for a court to deny pre-trial release, the defendant has to fulfill one of the six categories of offenses and meet standards of threat to people or community. Additionally, if the defendant commits a felony that is not a Class 4 felony, they can be subject to denial of pre-trial release.
While there is a long list of offenses that make an individual eligible for pre-trial detainment under the SAFE-T Act, some of the most common offenses include the following.
Non-forcible felonies that are ineligible for probation.
All forcible felonies if the defendant’s release poses a real and present threat to a person or the community. This includes the following felonies:
First degree murder
Second degree murder
Criminal sexual assault
Aggravated unlawful restraint
This act outlines multiple police reforms related to procedures, complaint processing and misconduct records, and higher levels of accountability for Illinois police. Below are some of the major changes included in the SAFE-T Act:
Grants the Illinois Attorney General authority to investigate civil rights violations committed by police officers.
Allows for anonymous filing of complaints to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board (ILETSB) for conduct that would qualify an officer for decertification.
Requires all public and nonpublic records regarding police misconduct to be retained indefinitely.
Restrictions to use of force by a police officer. This includes the banning of chokeholds and more stringent definitions of what constitutes the use of deadly force.
Requires all law enforcement agencies to use on-body cameras for officers by 2025 with some agencies starting sooner.
Higher levels of whistleblower protections for law enforcement officers, representatives, and other employees who report improper governmental actions.
Increased training requirements for law enforcement officers including minimum amounts of de-escalation training, hands-on scenario based training, and high-risk traffic stop training.
What this means for Illinois residents:
So what does this mean for you and me? While there will be less pre-trial detention of criminals, there will not be criminals released into the streets, or total lawlessness. The SAFE-T Act aims to reduce the load on the criminal justice system and provide more equitable system for pre-trial release regardless of an individual’s access to funds.
The SAFE-T Act aims to keep dangerous and potentially harmful criminals detained before their trial. However, with the rushed nature of the Act including the 764-page amendment filed on the same day the Act passed, there are bound to be some holes in this imperfect system. While you don’t need to be fearful for your life, now may be a good time to consider some basic self-defense training.
Self-defense is a skill we believe everyone should have which is why we offer multiple classes that are designed to fit your schedule and budget. We hold classes in Crystal Lake, IL located in McHenry County. If you’re in the area we highly recommend stopping by our store and booking a class. If you’re too far to travel, we recommend finding a USCCA certified instructor near you to learn the fundamentals of self-defense.