(The Center Square) – The Illinois House and Senate on Thursday passed a 300-plus page amendment updating the SAFE-T Act by expanding the crimes that are detainable and clarifying language in the legislation.
The amendment to the SAFE-T Act filed this week includes language to allow denial of pretrial release for a slew of serious crimes, ranging from murder to kidnapping and more.
The bill to amend the SAFE-T Act passed both the state Senate and House Thursday and now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs filed lawsuits challenging the act, saying it was unconstitutional and endangered communities across the state because of its cashless bail provision.
Amendment sponsor state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, said the updates make it clear that people who are a threat to the public can be held in jail pending trial.
“I know I’ll say this is my version of the Voting Rights Act, this is my version of Obamacare, this is what I did in Springfield to change the fortunes for thousands of working class Illinoisans,” Peters said during floor debate on the final day of session this calendar year.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, criticized the measure as a sign the original bill was rushed to passage in early 2021.
“There are substantive changes that are being made because of the harm, putting the public at risk, as a result of the SAFE-T Act in the first place,” Barickman said during the debate.
“So governor, why did you sign the law putting the public at risk in the first place,” Barickman said.
Pritzker signed the controversial SAFE-T Act into law early last year.
Barickman also said the measure does not clearly define burglary as detainable. Peters said burglary is a detainable offense in the bill.
“Burglary is a detainable offense,” Peters said. “There’s a provision included to try to not capture low level versions that trip up the homeless and mentally ill.”
A Senate Democrats’ analysis of the amendment says among updated language, the measure includes a standard of dangerousness that requires prosecutors to show that an individual poses “a real and present threat to any person or persons or the community” to be held pretrial.
Those currently detained can request to have the new system apply to their situation starting January 1 with courts applying a tiered system for granting such hearings, the analysis says.
The measure also amends the law to allow police to detain or arrest someone for trespassing.
Republican analysis suggests such arrests or detention can happen “only if law enforcement reasonably believes there is a threat to the community or any person, a custodial arrest is necessary because the criminal activity persists after the issuance of the citation, or the accused has an obvious medical or mental health issue.”
The measure also clarifies that judges can issue arrest warrants or a summons when someone misses their court date.
Lawmakers also made changes to clarify what “willful flight” means in order to stress that the intent is to detain individuals who are actively avoiding prosecution, not someone “who failed to appear in court because, for example, they missed their bus.”
The original version of the SAFE-T Act replaced arrest warrants for those charged with crimes who fail to appear in court with orders to show cause.
The law states “a failure to appear shall not be recorded until the Defendant fails to appear at the hearing to show cause,” or a second scheduled hearing after the defendant misses the first hearing.
Republican analysis says the willful flight definition for “isolated instances of nonappearance in court alone are still not considered evidence of the risk of willful flight. It has to be re-occurrence and patterns of intentional conduct to evade prosecution.”
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he expects dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs to continue their consolidated lawsuit against the law’s implementation, which is scheduled to be heard next week in Kankakee County.
“They’re pressing on with their court case, you know why? Because they know that everything is not fine,” Rose said during the debate. “They know that the people of Illinois’ personal safety, the safety of their family is at risk.”
After passing the Senate, the measure passed the House and is now being sent to the governor.