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The SAFE-T act went into effect in Illinois on September 18, 2023. Many changes to pretrial detention have occurred.

The SAFE-T act was implemented in September, 2023.  Essentially it eliminated cash bail for persons facing criminal charges.  It applies to all charges regardless if they are misdemeanors or felonies.  The law requires release for a wide variety of offenses, usually misdemeanors and low level felony charges without violence.  The court can detain persons if the state files a verified petition to detain in a timely fashion and the state can prove by a clear and convincing burden of proof that the defendant poses a risk to a person or persons by specific and articulable facts. 

The court is supposed to consider the normal factors (i.e. residency, prior criminal history, medical/physical issues, nature of the offense) as well as the index regarding risk of return to answer the charges.  There are additional factors such as the potential to suppress evidence in the case at a later point in time that the statute allows the court to consider.  Most facts are presented to the court via proffer.  The normal rules of evidence don't apply to these hearings. 

Since the act's inception, many appellate case decisions have been issued defining what is authorized by the act as it pertains to pretrial release.  Most of the cases affirm a judge's decision to detain an individual.   There are some cases where the court's decision to detain has been overruled, but not many.  A person charged with felony DUI or Agg. Battery, or felon in possession of a weapon as well as other serious felonies can be detained in jail the entire time until their cases are resolved.  I have had people that were detained for child pornography dissemination as well as those charged with the same offenses that were released.  There seems to be no consistency among the counties with regards to who gets released and who doesn't. 

The appeal time for these issues is only 14 days from the date of the court's decision.  The appeals form is very lengthy and not the same as normally used during a regular appeal. 

My opinion is that the act will work appropriately for low level felonies and misdemeanors.  However, there are many felony offense from class 2 and higher where people are being detained that would not have been detained previously.

Brian L. Polinske
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