In 2021, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act, a major criminal justice reform bill. Part of the new law is the Pretrial Fairness Act, which includes a no-cash bail policy that goes into effect on January 1, 2023.
The purpose of the no-cash bail policy was to address the injustice of people, unable to afford bail, having to remain in jail to await their trial, often for weeks or months, and mostly affecting impoverished communities of color, while those with money could post bail and remain free pending trial.
A 2016 study found that 90% of those held in Illinois jails were in pretrial detention status, awaiting trial, and had not been convicted of the crime charged. In New York, a 16-year-old, charged with stealing a backpack, spent 3 years in jail, awaiting trial because his family could not afford to post the $3,000 bail. Proponents of the new law argue that “poverty” should not be criminalized.
As can be expected with our current political divisions, Republicans have denounced the bill as allowing dangerous criminals to be released, without bail, for violent offenses such as second degree murder, drug-induced homicide, arson, aggravated battery, kidnapping, burglary, robbery and more, thereby endangering crime victims and the public. Prosecutors have complained about the high burden of proof required to keep someone incarcerated.
Actually, the Pretrial Fairness Act enumerates many non-probational forcible felony offenses for which bail can be denied, at the request of the State’s Attorney, if a judge determines in a hearing that the defendant poses a specific, real and present threat to a person, or has a high likelihood of willful flight. For other offenses, where the State believes the defendant poses a threat to the community or a flight risk, judges will consider each case on an individual basis. The law provides the judge with factors to be considered in making a determination of dangerousness, and the Illinois Supreme Court is developing a statewide risk-assessment tool.
Inevitably, some people will be released without bail and then go out and commit other serious and violent crimes. This does not mean that the goals of the law, to treat defendants equitably regardless of financial means, are no less worthy. Rather, amendments to the law may be required as Illinois, the first state in the country to abolish cash bail, learns more about how the law works in practice.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, having an experienced criminal defense attorney such as Greg Martucci can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Greg Martucci will thoroughly investigate the charges, explain your constitutional rights and protect your rights, discuss your options and vigorously defend you through trial. If requested, he will also engage in plea negotiations with the prosecutor to reach a fair disposition of your case. In some cases, he can later expunge or seal all records of an arrest.
Call Martucci Law today at 630-980-8333 to schedule your free initial office consultation. Learn how we can help you face criminal charges with confidence.