GALESBURG, Ill. — The SAFE-T Act, a piece of Illinois legislation that was created with the intent of resolving shortcomings in the criminal justice system, now faces criticism and legal action from officials across the state.
The act reforms three different areas of criminal justice: policing, pretrial and corrections. The part of the act seeing the most publicity is the modifications to the pretrial portion, especially when it came to the elimination of cash bail.
Right now in Illinois, when someone is arrested, they are charged and booked into jail until a bond hearing is set; that is where the courts will determine bail. If bail is denied or the defendant cannot afford it, the defendant must stay in jail until a pretrial hearing.
The SAFE-T Act would completely change this process. After the act takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023, detainment will only be imposed when a defendant poses "a real and present threat to a person" or is deemed a flight risk.
If a judge doesn't find any evidence to support those claims, the defendant would be free to walk until their pretrial hearing.
Now, over half of the 102 State's Attorneys in Illinois have filed lawsuits against the act.
Knox County State's Attorney, Jeremy Karlin said the process is unconstitutional.
"There are good arguments the statute is unconstitutional, because first of all, the Illinois constitution talks about a cash bail being used," he explained. "So it's specifically mentioned in our constitution. The statute doesn't take into account, adequately, the rights of victims. These crime victim rights are institutionalized in the Illinois Constitution. So it's the separation of powers issue. I think the most significant constitutional problem is that because the statute is more worded poorly and so vaguely, implementation of the statute is going to look different in every county."
State's Attorney Karlin is one of many who filed a lawsuit but said there are plans to consolidate all lawsuits into one.