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SAFE-T Act: Rock Island County Public Defender filing motions for clients to be released from jail

The Rock Island County Public Defender said he's filed motions for 30 to 40 of his clients to be released from jail.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Cash bail will end in Illinois on Monday, Sept. 18 when the new SAFE-T Act takes effect. It makes Illinois the first state in the nation to eliminate cash bail. This means money will no longer play a role in whether a suspect is incarcerated while awaiting trial. Instead, the new system will be based on the type of crime or an offender's level of risk of reoffending or fleeing prosecution.

Those working in the legal system have been busy preparing for the change, including Rock Island County Public Defender Hany Khoury. 

"There's a retroactive aspect to the law, to where people that are in custody on Sept. 18, when the act takes effect, can actually petition the court for release," Khoury said. "We've met with our clients and assessed the possibility of success and have filed motions for release of clients who are in custody on both detainable and non-detainable offenses."

A detainable offense is a more serious crime, such as murder or residential burglary, whereas a non-detainable offense is a lower-level crime.

Khoury anticipates his office will have between 30 and 40 hearings for release. He expects his clients who are being held on a non-detainable offense will be released.

"The law does have a presumption towards release, so we erred on the side of filing more than not. We filed in the majority of our cases," he said. "We'll see how it shakes out. It's new to everybody."

Some of those clients who will appear in court next week could have just been arrested, while others have been in jail for several weeks, unable to afford their bond.

"I think that the main issue is going to be, hopefully, the release of those with non-detainable offenses that aren't at risk to the community and that aren't a flight risk, so that they can, you know, at least try to go back to their lives while addressing the charges and of course, being presumed innocent," Khoury said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 203 inmates in the Rock Island County jail. He's not sure how the elimination of cash bail will change the population but doesn't anticipate it being a significant change.

"I think it might go down a little bit," Khoury said. "You're going to have those individuals on non-detainable offenses who aren't going to be in jail at all. They're not a significant portion of the jail population, in my opinion. You're going to have some individuals who are going to be detained that otherwise would have bonded out. How those two kind of offset each other remains to be seen."

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