The Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act is a criminal reform bill signed into law by Governor Pritzker this year. Here’s what you should know.
Police Authority and Victim Support
Two goals of the SAFE-T Act are criminal justice reform and victim support. To accomplish these goals, lawmakers included protection from excessive force, officer training, and other reforms that would change how police and victims function within the criminal justice system.
For example, police must provide aid after using force and intervene if other officers use excessive force to catch or arrest a suspect. Authority over dashcam and bodycam footage is restricted so that evidence of brutality or illegal acts cannot be erased to cover up a crime.
The other goal of the SAFE-T Act is to provide victim support. This involves prosecuting suspected criminals fairly to ensure that the victims get the justice they need to move on. There will also be more resources available for victims.
Criminal Justice Reform
Possible one of the most important parts of the SAFE-T Act is a series of criminal justice reform bills that will drastically change how crimes are tried in Illinois.
The Act includes the following reforms:
- An end to cash bail
- Changes to the offense classification for violations of conditions of pretrial release/probation
- Establishment of a Pretrial Practices Data Oversight Board
- Required reporting of a death in custody
- Amendment of the definitions of habitual criminal and first-degree murder
- Increased eligibility for probation for those convicted of some drug crimes
Some of the most controversial parts of this bill include abolishing cash bail, restriction of force, desertification for abusive cops, and potential parole for convicted drug criminals.
Many police unions, Republican lawmakers, and others are concerned that this law could create public safety issues by “relaxing” some criminal laws. Much of the frustration with the SAFE-T Act comes from the fear that law enforcement will be so limited that they cannot fulfill their role.
In an effort to stop these reforms from happening, some lawmakers successfully lobbied to remove some of the restrictions on cops and a rule that would have eliminated qualified immunity. This privilege allows police to avoid punishment for criminal activity.
Their efforts have successfully delayed the implementation of the bill for a while. Still, supporters remain optimistic that the core mission of the SAFE-T Act will survive lobbying attempts in the future.
Support and Activism
Sponsors and activist groups feel that this law will change criminal law for the better and begin to repair the damage done to people of color over the years. An alarmingly disproportionate amount of black and African American people are in Illinois prisons compared to their white peers. This is a problem that the SAFE-T Act addresses.
The sections about eliminating cash bail, desertifying bad cops, and giving parole to more people accused of drug crimes are aimed specifically at those who have been incarcerated for racial reasons.
In general, black communities are poorer and more likely to experience police brutality. By removing racist laws intended to attack people of color, the SAFE-T Act is doing what other criminal justice laws haven’t in decades.
When Will the Law Go Into Effect?
The more controversial parts of the SAFE-T Act have been tabled for now, but cash bail will go into effect on January 23, 2022. There are concerns that opponents to the law will effectively stop it before the January deadline, but doing so would take a lot of time and energy that the skeptics don’t have.
Knowing Your Rights In Illinois
If you have been accused of a crime in Illinois, you have rights. Johnson Law Group has over 100 years of combined legal experience and a team of tenacious attorneys who can protect your rights and freedoms.
The criminal justice system is changing, but there’s still a long way to go. Our firm stays updated on the latest legislative changes and laws that affect the criminal process so we can integrate new knowledge into our approach.
Our firm genuinely cares about our clients, and we work tirelessly to protect their rights throughout the criminal justice system. From arrest to trial and probation, our team can advocate for your best interests.
Need a lawyer? Contact Johnson Law Group today.