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What changes are going to be implemented with the new SAFE-T Act?

Quite a few changes regarding bail will take effect on January 1, 2023.  Last July the bail standards were changed.  That change required a pretrial screening be conducted on every person seeking a bail reduction.  Factors the screen looked at were seriousness of the offense, flight risk, and history of the offender.  Personal recognizance was presumed in all but the most serious of offenses.  However, even those changes resulted in very high bonds established on Class 1 and Class X offenses.  Bonds of $100,000 to $2,000,000 are common.  10% of that amount must be posted per statute.  Many clients have a difficult time accruing that much money to post as bond and remain in jail for extended periods of time until their family posts.  Some clients are unable to post bond and stay in the jail the entirety of their cases.  I recently tried a murder case where my client couldn't post $200,000 so he stayed in jail for 671 days before the jury found him not guilty.  

Beginning January 1, 2023 the law regarding bail changes substantially.  Most every offender will be released on personal recognizance.  The state will be required to provide each defendant a hearing within 48 hours to determine if they will be released.  The defendants are entitled to have an attorney at that stage of the proceedings.  That means that the public defenders office will need to have an attorney attend the weekend settings on bail.  Even if the defendant desires to retain private counsel they still have a right to be represented at the initial hearing.  Defendants will be entitled to make at least 3 phone calls within 3 hours of being detained.  

If a person who is out on bond fails to appear in court a warrant cannot be automatically issued.  The court must ask that a petition for rule to show cause be issued.  Then the defendant must be personally served with the petition.  The petition will be set for hearing and the defendant must attend.  If they fail to appear for that hearing the judge may then issue an arrest warrant.  Practically this process will create an enormous amount of backlog for fugitive cases.  I'm not sure what logic, if any, was used in creating this change to the law.  If someone fails to appear in court and a warrant is issued they simply contact their attorney and obtain an order quashing the warrant and reset the case to the next available docket.  By adding a contempt requirement all that will occur is adding an unncessary step that requires court resources and time for both the state and defense.  

Body cams will be mandated by 2026 depending on the size of each police force's municipality.  Currently, we only have a few departments that use body cams.  I believe it is helpful in resolving most cases.  Dash cams only capture a portion of the events.  Body cams capture much more.  The body cam footage is easy to review, although time consuming.  I welcome this change and believe it will assist both the state and the defense in disposing of cases. 

Use of force by officers will change drastically.  New standards and reporting requirements take effect January 1, 2023.  There will also be an officer decertification process that will be mandated.  This new law was added to prevent problem officers from resigning or being terminated for their actions at one department only to move to a neighboring police force.  Officers will be required to release misdemeanor and some felony offenders on a notice to appear.  

Driver's license suspensions will not be imposed for failure to attend court on traffic matters.  No suspensions will occur for red light camera violations.  

There is already discussions about repealing the law.  Law enforcement is very dissatisfied with the changes and argue that it will increase the number of violent offenders being released pretrial and reoffending while out on bond.  They are also not satisifed with the decertification procedures that will result in some officers being removed from their positions.  


Brian L. Polinske
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