Understanding Illinois’ Controversial New Crime Bill

The Illinois legislature recently enacted a large, 800-page police reform bill. Despite the lobbying of several citizen and law enforcement groups to veto the bill, it is likely that Governor J.B. Pritzker will sign the bill shortly. The bill has been controversial because it calls for abolishing cash bail throughout Illinois starting on January 1st, 2023. It will also create a more robust way to track police misconduct and decertify police officers who have committed wrongdoing. Civil rights groups have applauded the bill for focusing on much-needed police reform in light of the recent high profile cases involving police shootings.

Illinois’ New Law Focuses on Police Misconduct

The bill will require all police officers to wear body cameras as of 2025. It also abolishes the requirement of sworn affidavits for those who are filing complaints against police officers. Prior to the new law, police brutality victims needed to sign a sworn affidavit before their complaints would be taken seriously.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the governor has not stated that he will sign the bill with certainty, although he did say he was “very pleased” with it. The governor can use his veto powers to ask legislators to remove parts of the bill that he does not like. He can sign it as it is or veto it entirely.

The Bill Eliminates Cash Bail

Law enforcement agencies and the state's prosecutors are in large part opposed to eliminating cash bail. They argue that doing so will make Illinois communities less safe. In 2017, Cook County had already revamped many of its bail policies. Cook County judges often rely on electronic home monitoring rather than prohibitively high bail prices or releasing defendants.

Under the proposed legislation, it is possible for defendants awaiting trial to be released with an ankle bracelet without having to pay any bond. Doing so allows them to release defendants without requiring them to pay high fees. The new law’s detractors have concerns that people who have committed serious crimes will be released with an ankle monitor, claiming that those defendants should pay the higher bail amount.

However, proponents of the bill claim that defendants without criminal history charged with violent crimes will not be released. Likewise, defendants with a history of violent crimes who have been charged with minor crimes should be held if they pose a danger to others.

Victims’ Rights Groups are Also Concerned

Some victims’ rights groups are concerned about the new legislation. Advocates for domestic violence victims are concerned that their abusers will be released without having to pay bail, putting the victims at risk. McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally pointed out that the bill mandates a pretrial release for arsonists, drug-dealers, and drunk drivers. Other prosecutors applaud the bill, claiming that it will end the idea that the offender’s risk correlates with the amount of cash bail. Cash bail will not stop for another two years, allowing people in the Court system to get training and education.

Contact a Cook County Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges in Illinois and you need a lawyer, experience matters. Contact experienced criminal defense lawyers at Glasgow & Olsson today to schedule your initial consultation.

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