SAFE-T Act Amendments Include Denying Pretrial Release for Serious Crimes
Changes to the SAFE-T Act’s no-cash bail provision set to take effect Jan. 1 have been filed and Illinois state lawmakers are aiming to get it across the finish line on the final day of veto session Thursday.
The measure was passed in early January 2021 along with other provisions of the SAFE-T Act. While there have been several trailer bills since then, concerns have been raised about conflicting language leading to its implementation as well as what crimes are and are not eligible for pretrial release.
Dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs across the state have sued to block the law’s implementation. That case is to be heard next week in Kankakee County.
State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, filed his own changes weeks ago, but supporters of the original act opposed them. Bennett is now a cosponsor with Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, of a 300-page Senate amendment to House Bill 1095 with changes he says will address concerns.
“What we’re trying to do is talk to the people, public defenders and state’s attorneys and judges who actually will be dealing after Jan. 1 with the in-courthouse portion of this bill and making sure that the bill’s got the specifics in here that help them do what they need to do to implement the bill,” Bennett told The Center Square.
Among the changes, pretrial release can be denied for defendants charged with first and second degree murder, sexual assault of a child, robbery, home invasion, kidnapping and other severe crimes. Changes also make clear that pretrial release can be denied in cases of real and present threats to any persons, instead of just a single specific person, or the community.
Release conditions can also include a review of prior criminal history of violence, abusive behavior and more, including a “regularly validated risk assessment tool to aid its determination of appropriate conditions of release.”
The amendment also addresses individuals who have been released pretrial who fail to show up for a court hearing. Added is, “If the person summoned fails to appear by the date required or cannot be located to serve the summons, a warrant may be issued by the court for the arrest of the person complained against.”
The amendment also allows revocation of pretrial release for a felony or Class A misdemeanor if the defendant is charged with a crime that occurred during the defendant’s pretrial release. If a defendant is released awaiting trial for a petty or business offense or ordinance violation and is subsequently charged with a felony during pretrial release, such conditions may not be revoked, but the court “may impose sanctions.”
One new element regarding the release of arrest reports to the media, the amendment leaves intact the identifying information of a defendant like name, age, address and photograph and information on charges upon arrest. But, it removes language allowing the furnishing of “the conditions of pretrial release.”
“The argument is there’s certain information that we want to make available to defense counsel, but then the initial privacy issues of people who have not been convicted of a crime yet and so we have to balance those two issues of privacy and that they can defend themselves at that hearing,” Bennett said.
The measure will be heard in a Senate committee Thursday morning. If passed there and then by the full Senate, the House would need to take it up before it can be sent to the governor. The final day of scheduled session is Thursday.
Bennett hopes the measure quells opposition heading into implementation in just weeks.
“And we just keep whittling down what started as a lot of issues to language that everyone gets something they want, but nobody gets everything they want,” Bennett said.
State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, said the process feels rushed and that’s not good for transparency or public safety.
“Who knows if it will address the issues that are in question in the court case. I hope we find out soon,” Plummer told The Center Square. “But, this is really consequential legislation. We’re not talking about a random $25 fee here. This is going to impact people’s lives and legislators need to take it more seriously.”