Misleading Claims About Illinois Cash Bail Law Circulate Online

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Online publications and bogus newspapers circulating in Illinois claim that a law provides for the automatic release of accused felons across the US state. It is misleading; as legislation passed in 2021 eliminates cash bail, legal experts say judges can still jail those who could pose a threat to the community.

“Illinois non-defensible offenses from January 1, 2023,” reads text in a September 14, 2022 Instagram post with more than 248,000 likes.

Below the text is a list of crimes, including kidnapping and second-degree murder.

“Under this new law, upon being charged with the listed crimes, those arrested would be released without bail pending a court date,” the message read.

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken on September 19, 2022

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity Today (SAFE-T) Act in January 2021. Proponents of the legislation say that its provisions – including the elimination of cash bail by January 1, 2023 – will help reform police accountability, sentencing and electronic monitoring. This is in response to the national movement for fairness in the criminal justice system, which disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities and leaves many languishing in jail without a conviction because they cannot afford to post bail.

However, many Republicans opposed the legislation due to public safety concerns. Now, with the approach of the midterm elections, the law has once again become a subject of controversy.

A video of Orland Park, Illinois Mayor Keith Pekau criticizing the measure received more than 8.7 million views on TikTok. Similar messages circulated on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And in Chicago, a series of conservative-funded letters designed to look like newspapers claimed the SAFE-T law would automatically release those charged with serious crimes into the community.

But such claims are misleading, say legal experts and one of the bill’s sponsors.

“The bail reform provisions of the SAFE-T Act allow judges to focus solely on defendants’ threats to public safety and keeping dangerous criminals off the streets,” the court said. Illinois State Rep. Justin Slaughter, the bill’s Democratic sponsor, in an email.

what is the law Is

Complaints circulating online relate to the Pre-Trial Fairness Act (PFA), a component of the SAFE-T Act that changes the processes for pre-trial release and detention hearings.

Although the legislation would eliminate cash bail, which many courts use as a guarantee that defendants will return for trial, it would not prevent judges from jailing people charged with serious offenses pending trial.

Sharone Mitchell, a public defender from Cook County, Illinois, home of Chicago, told AFP in an email that the legislation creates “a detention hearing where the judge must consider the evidence brought by the prosecution and then make a decision on remand”. “

“For serious and violent crimes, prosecutors can argue for detention based on standards of public safety or flight risk,” he said. “Prosecutors can also request detention if the person violated the terms of their release or sentence in a previous case.”

The crimes listed in the messages — second degree murder and aggravated bodily harm — are offenses for which judges could deny defendants bail, according to the PFA.

David E. Olson, co-director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice at Loyola University Chicago, said the allegations circulating online “provide an incomplete picture” of the law.

“Part of the argument for the law is that if someone is a danger to society and they are charged with a serious crime, we should detain them to protect society,” he said. he declares. “We shouldn’t make public safety dependent on whether or not they, their friends or family can find enough money to get them out.”

Alexa Van Brunt, director of the MacArthur Justice Center Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, said judges “have always had the ability to hold no bail if they present a real security threat that is demonstrated by evidence. clear and convincing.

“And that’s not going to change,” she said. “The difference now is that judges can’t just use cash bail instead of evidence of a threat to detain people.”

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