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Illinois criminal law will undergo significant changes in 2023. The Illinois SAFE-T act will be going into full effect in 2023 and attempts to reform several areas of criminal law in Illinois. The most notable change will be the ending of cash bail in Illinois. Illinois will be the first state to eliminate cash bail in all circumstances. Illinois has also changed criminal sentencing, prison policy, and police reforms under the SAFE-T act.
Safe-T act or (Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act)
This statute passed the Illinois legislature in 2021 and will go into effect on January 1, 2023. The stated overall goal of the Safe-T act is to end cash bail and to promote racial and criminal justice. The bill proponents argue that the cash bail system is a poverty penalty and allows low-income defendants to sit in jail while others are released.
The ending of cash bail is hoped to address racial and criminal justice concerns while reducing the overall population of those held in pretrial detention. You can find additional info on the law's initial passage in our article, 5 Facts About the Illinois SAFE-T Act.
Safe-T Act Policing reforms
There are a large number of police reforms included in the Safe-T act and with some critical areas to highlight.
- Limits to the use of force, including bans on chokeholds.
- Limits the use of deadly force against persons suspected of committing a property offense.
- All officers must wear body cameras while on duty by 2025.
- Body camera recordings must be stored for a minimum of 90 days and a minimum of two years if the video is flagged due to a use of force or a complaint.
- An expanded misconduct database includes allowing anonymous complaints without an affidavit.
- The removal of police discipline from the collective bargaining process.
- The prohibition of purchasing certain types of military equipment.
- The expansion of police officer training, including 30 hours of retraining every three years on skills, tactics, de-escalation techniques, and the use of force.
- Police are required to intervene when a fellow officer uses excessive force.
- Police must administer first aid to anyone injured due to the use of force.
- Prohibits custodial arrests for Class B misdemeanors; officers must issue a citation.
- Prohibits the removal of suspects from private or public property unless they are acting in a threatening manner.
- Police can issue citations and release arrestees charged with low-level offenses instead of detaining them.
The police reforms in the safety act have faced strong opposition from Law enforcement groups such as the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, the FOP State Lodge, the FOP Labor Council, and the FOP Troopers Lodge. Law enforcement has expressed concerns with many of the provisions in the new law. The law supporters hope to provide more accountability for Law enforcement and support equitable criminal justice in the State of Illinois.
Safe-T act judicial process reforms
In 2023 there will also be changes to how parts of the judicial process work. Judges may issue a notice to appear instead of an arrest warrant if a defendant misses court. A warrant allows law enforcement to detain a defendant pending the next step in the judicial process. If a notice to appear is issued, it will be up to the defendant to make the next court appearance. The most significant number of changes to the judicial process will revolve around the elimination of cash bail.
Safe-T Act: Pretrial Fairness Act
The Pretrial Fairness Act is a part of the Safe-T act that goes into effect on January 1, 2023. This section addresses the elimination of cash bail and how the new pretrial detention system will work. Judges will be required to follow these new procedures and state their reasoning for any pretrial detention on the record. As it is implemented, there will also be a requirement for collecting data on the pretrial system.
The new pretrial detention system
Currently, when a defendant is arrested, they are brought before a judge for a bond hearing. The judge then either releases them or sets up a cash bond that they need to post, or they stay in detention. If they were released, they would have conditions of bond they would have to follow, such as attending all their court dates and not committing any new crimes.
The new system also has an initial appearance; however, the judge does not have the option of setting a cash bail. The presumption is that the defendant will be released pending trial. If the prosecution feels it is appropriate to hold the defendant in detention, it needs to file a petition for detention with the court. At that point, a pretrial detention hearing is set. This hearing must be within 48 hours of the defendant being taken into custody.
Grounds for pretrial detention
- Type of charge. The defendant is charged with an offense punishable by a sentence of imprisonment without probation, and there is evident proof or evidence as to the commission of the crime.
- The defendant is considered a public safety risk. This standard requires that prosecutors show the defendant poses a threat to a specific identifiable person or persons. Previously a prosecutor needed to show that the defendant posed a general threat to the community.
- The defendant is likely to flee to avoid criminal prosecution. There needs to be a showing that the defendant has a high likelihood of willful flight under this new standard.
Safe-T Act Prison Reforms
- Detainees have the right to make three phone calls within three hours of arriving at a new place of custody.
- Increased sentence credit for educational programs and work release
- Increased support and services for pregnant prisoners
Safe -T Act Sentencing Reforms
- Certain convictions for felony drug offenses will be treated as misdemeanors to access diversion and probation programs.
- Additional activities of daily life will be allowed while on electronic monitoring
- Reduction in the length of parole for certain offenses
- If a defendant did not commit an act or know it would occur, or where a death was caused by a third party, a prosecutor may no longer file first-degree murder charges.
Safe-T Act Crime Victims' Compensation
The definition of what constitutes a victim has been expanded. The process for victims to request cash compensation under the Crime Victims Compensation Act will be less burdensome than the previous system.
Safe-T Act Driver's License Suspensions
The state's vehicle code has also been updated. Under the new law, a driver's license cannot be suspended for failure to pay automated camera tickets, abandoned vehicle fees, or traffic fines. You will remain suspended if your suspension results from a DUI or failure to pay child support. This law went into effect in July of 2021 and resulted in the lifting of holds and suspensions on roughly 350,000 residents of Illinois.
As can be seen with the recent changes, criminal law is a complex and ever-changing landscape. Having an experienced attorney by your side throughout the process is crucial to obtaining the best results.