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Elimination of Cash Bail puts Dangerous Criminals back on our Streets

During the final hours of the 2021 lame duck session of the 101st General Assembly, Illinois Democrats rammed through anti-police, pro-criminal legislation under the cover of darkness.

The Democrats’ so-called “SAFE-T” Act (HB 3653, PA 101-652) contained many controversial provisions that make extensive changes to Illinois ‘criminal justice laws. The legislation abolishes cash bail, makes it more difficult for prosecutors to charge a defendant with felony murder, adds further requirements for no-knock warrants, gives judges the ability to deviate from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, makes changes to the “three strikes” law, and decreases mandatory supervised release terms, among other changes.

One of the most controversial aspects of HB 3653 was the numerous changes and additional requirements it places on Illinois’ law enforcement officers. The legislation mandates body cams be worn by all officers, creates a new felony offence of law enforcement misconduct, creates an anonymous complaint policy, and makes changes to use of force in making arrest, duty to render aid and duty to intervene. The bill makes significant changes to the law enforcement officer certification and decertification process, including the creation of a new Law Enforcement Certification Review Panel.

House Bill 3653 was approved by the Illinois House on January 13, 2021 by the bare majority of 60 votes (60-50-0), with only minutes to spare before the clock struck to end the 101st General Assembly. It was strongly opposed by Illinois’ law enforcement community, including the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and many State’s Attorneys from across the state. Citing serious concerns about both the content and the process by which the bill passed, House Republicans voted unanimously against the measure. The legislation had passed the Illinois Senate in the early hours of the final day of the 101st General Assembly on a vote of 32-23-0. Governor Pritzker signed the bill into law on February 22, 2021. On January 1, 2023, the State of Illinois will eliminate its cash bail system. Starting next year, Illinois’ non-detainable offenses will include: aggravated battery, aggravated DUI, aggravated fleeing, arson, burglary, drug-induced homicide, intimidation, kidnapping, robbery, 2nd-degree murder, and threatening a public official. Representative Patrick Windhorst, who previously served for 14 years as State’s Attorney for Massac County, strongly argued against the controversial provisions of the Democrats’ criminal justice legislation when the bill was passed in 2021. This week, Windhorst again spoke out against the pending elimination of cash bail. “I believe the elimination of cash bail, particularly as it’s written in the SAFE-T Act, will reduce public safety and lead to more crime particularly more violent crime in Illinois,” Patrick Windhorst, former state’s attorney and current state representative for district 118, said. Windhorst said he voted against this bill when it came about. He said he was one of the leading voices against it. […] Representative Windhorst listed some of the offenses that won’t involve detention before going to trial. “So there are a whole list of violent crimes, burglary, robbery, arson, kidnapping, almost all drug offenses even drug distribution, DUI offenses, even DUI offenses that are involving a fatality, that do not qualify for detention under the Illinois Safety Act. To me, that’s going to mean a lot of individuals are committing crimes and being released immediately, if not within a couple of days,” he said. Illinois is the first state in the country to abolish cash bail.


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