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Illinois law enforcement revolts against new law creating cashless bail

Republican lawmakers, law enforcement officers and states' attorneys oppose law taking effect Jan. 1.

September 16, 2022 6:31pm

Updated: September 16, 2022 11:41pm

Members of Illinois' law enforcement community are united against a new law taking effect Jan. 1 that eliminates cash bail under most circumstances.

At a town hall meeting this week, the Illinois Freedom Caucus focused on what the SAFE-T Act does, what it means for Illinois communities, and what citizens can do to repeal it.

Several Republican Illinois lawmakers, law enforcement officers and states' attorneys from across the state as well as county judges participated.

Macon County State's Attorney Scott Rueter said that under the SAFE T Act, many criminals, including violent offenders, would not be put people in jail while they await trial.

"One of the main things in the law is that you can only be detained for offenses in which if you are convicted, you have to go to prison," Rueter said. "Things like first-time arson and first-time burglary are not detainable offenses under the act."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law last year. It will abolish cash bail on Jan. 1, making Illinois the first state in the country to do so. The bill also includes a provision that will allow most people charged with crimes, including some violent felonies, to be released without posting bail.

For violent offenders, prosecutors will have to submit a request for detention and persuade a judge that the offender poses a threat to public safety. The state also is required to provide each suspect a hearing within 48 hours to determine if the suspect should be released.

State Rep. and IFC member Blaine Wilhour said the act would result in officials having to make quick decisions on what to do with alleged criminals.

"This is going to lead to people having to make snap judgments on these matters and make snap judgments on whether somebody, in legal terms, is a threat to their community." Wilhour said.

Pritzker's team did not return a request for comment.

Under the law, many non-violent offenders cannot even be taken into custody, law enforcement officials argue.

Effingham Country Sheriff Paul Kuhns said the consequences for law enforcement making the wrong decision could impact how their jobs are done.

"I know something my officers worry about is if you take someone into custody unlawfully, then you're dealing with a Fourth Amendment violation," Kuhns said. "That's scary. That is not something we want to be involved in."

State Rep. Adam Neimerg told The Center Square that the majority of Illinois residents oppose the measure.

"When you look at the radical left and what they have done to the state of Illinois, a majority of Illinoisans are against it and we are seeing that with the SAFE T Act," Neimerg said.

The law goes into effect on Jan 1. 2023.

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