Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has signed a 300-plus page amendment updating the SAFE-T Act after the changes were passed by the Illinois House and Senate last week.
The amendment to the SAFE-T Act filed last 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 was sent to Pritzker to sign into law. He signed the bill on Tuesday.
The bill — House Bill 1095 — addresses “misinformation” related to the SAFE-T Act, according to the governor’s office.
“I’m pleased that the General Assembly has passed clarifications that uphold the principle we fought to protect: to bring an end to a system where wealthy violent offenders can buy their way out of jail, while less fortunate nonviolent offenders wait in jail for trial,” Pritzker said.
“Advocates and lawmakers came together and put in hours of work to strengthen and clarify this law, uphold our commitment to equity, and keep people safe,” he said.
Dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs filed lawsuits challenging the SAFE-T 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 this 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.”
Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said the SAFE-T Act will help “right the wrongs of policies that have disproportionately harmed low-income, marginalized communities while helping to keep Illinoisans safe.”
“I commend members of the General Assembly for coming together to make these changes and provide us a clear path to ensure both accountability and justice. We must stop criminalizing poverty, and that is our goal as we end cash bail in Illinois and uphold human rights for all in our legal system,” Stratton said after Pritzker signed the changes into law Tuesday.
Lake and McHenry County Scanner and The Center Square both contributed to this report.