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Cash bail is a controversial topic that has gained attention in some state legislatures within the last several years. There is quite a bit of news surrounding this topic out there, and this article will discuss how cash bail in Illinois will change in 2023.
Will Cash Bail End Entirely In 2023?
The most straightforward answer to this question is YES; cash bail will end in Illinois on January 1st, 2023.
What Is Cash Bail?
Cash bail is a technique used by most court systems to incentivize the defendant to follow the rules of their bond and appear at all their court dates. A defendant must pay the court a certain amount of money based on the alleged crime and the defendant's history. Judges typically have a large amount of discretion in setting the bail amount. If a defendant cannot pay the bail amount, they are detained while the case is pretrial. If they violate a bail bond condition, they will forfeit the cash put down.
Although cash bail is ending, a defendant may still be held in pretrial detention under certain circumstances. The crimes that are eligible for pretrial detention and how pretrial detention is administered will be under the new 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 act makes changes to multiple areas including.
A large number of police reforms are included in the Safe-T act, with some critical areas to highlight.
- Limits to the use of force, including bans on chokeholds.
- All officers will be required to wear body cameras by 2025.
- An expanded misconduct database.
- 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.
Prison And Sentencing Reforms
Overall, the prison and sentencing reforms will give detainees and prisoners more rights when they are initially detained and allow for more services and access to programming for those detained or in prison. Some of these include:
- Increased sentence credit for educational programs and work release
- If detained, access to cell phone to obtain numbers along with three phone calls
- Increased support and services for pregnant prisoners
- Reduction in the length of parole for certain offenses
- Additional activities of daily life will be allowed while on electronic monitoring.
- A certain conviction for felony drug offenses will be treated as a misdemeanor to access diversion and probation programs.
Crime Victims' Compensation
The definition of a victim has been expanded, and it will be easier for victims to request cash compensation under the Crime Victims Compensation Act.
Pretrial Fairness Act
The Pretrial Fairness Act is a part of the Safe-T act that addresses cash bail and the new pretrial detention system in Illinois starting January 1, 2023. Under this new system, cash bail is eliminated, which will result in the release of defendants back into Illinois communities in all but certain specific circumstances.
When Can A Defendant Be Held In Pretrial Detention?
Under the new system, Judges may hold a defendant in pretrial detention if a prosecutor believes it is appropriate and petitions for a detention hearing. The defendant may be detained after the pretrial detention hearing if the prosecutor can show that:
- 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.
Are Defendants With Felonies Held In Pretrial Detention Under The Pretrial Fairness Act?
Any crime can result in pretrial detention if one of the above criteria is met or the defendant is charged with certain specific felonies, including:
- A forcible Felony with a mandatory prison sentence without probation or a high likelihood of willful flight to avoid prosecution
- Stalking or aggravated stalking and release would threaten an individual or the community
- Sex offenses and their release would threaten an individual or the community
The Hearing With The Judge.
Traditionally the legal process for a defendant starts with an initial hearing, at which time bail is set. These are usually either signature bonds or cash bonds. Upon signing the bond or signing and paying the cash required, the defendant would then be released with conditions of bond while the case is pending before trial.
The new system still requires an initial appearance where the presumption is that the defendant will be released after this hearing. If the prosecutor feels it is appropriate to detain the defendant, they must now file a petition for detention.
Once this is filed, the court will set a separate detention hearing to see if the prosecutor can meet the new higher burdens under the Pretrial Fairness Act to detain the defendant. The pretrial detention hearing will be required to take place within 48 hours of the defendant's detention.
Will Defendants Currently On Cash Bail Be Freed When The Pretrial Fairness Act Goes Into Effect?
The courts will be able to reassess a defendant's bond conditions. If the court finds that they are not a threat to the community or any specific individual, they can be released.
Goals of the Safe-T act
The stated overall goals of the Safe-T act and the Pretrial fairness act are to end cash bail and to promote racial and criminal justice. The proponents of the bill argue that the cash bail system disadvantages those with lower incomes and these reforms make the system more equitable.
The population of persons in pretrial detention is predicted to decrease under the new standards, which is argued to be a positive for racial and criminal justice. Only those that pose a specific threat to individuals or the community or are a flight risk will be detained.
Opposition to the Sate-T act
As of 2022, 100 out of 102 Illinois State's attorneys oppose the law as it is currently written. Additionally, 50 state attorneys are bringing constitutional challenges against the law on various grounds.
Additionally, some politicians and members of the media have dubbed this a "purge law," implying that criminals will be released and there will be a free for all in terms of crime. Although there will be a more intensive process to keep a defendant in pretrial detention, the act has multiple provisions to ensure the public's safety. Concerns of a purge in Illinois are greatly exaggerated.
If this act goes into effect on January 1, 2023, the statistics on crime, detention, and victim outcomes will be closely tracked. Only time will tell whether the stated goals of the Safe-T act will be achieved.
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