Officials say major changes are underway with the end of cash bail, but they’ll adjust
The Sycamore Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion on what the public can expect with the elimination of cash bail and the introduction to the new system replacing it.
A new system for treating defendants under the criminal justice system awaiting trial, or pre-trial, will go into effect on Monday.
Rose Treml, the executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce, said she hoped the event would dispel any concerns about the end of cash bail.
“We just need people to understand, not be alarmed, but this is what's going to happen and that our police, our sheriff's department, our judicial system, our state's attorney, they have it under control.”
The SAFE-T Act was signed into law in 2021. Since then, state’s attorneys across the state have challenged the constitutionality of the legislation that brings reform to several aspects of the criminal justice system. In July, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the law is constitutional and the end of cash bail would go into effect Sept. 18.
The conversation was open to the public and dozens of people filled the room. The panel included Illinois 23rd Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Bradley Waller, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato, DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Sullivan, and Sycamore Chief Police Jim Winters.
Winters said a common misperception is that under the SAFE-T Act, police will no longer be making arrests.
He said that’s not true.
“If there's probable cause, and there's not extenuating circumstances, they will take that person into custody, and they will be booked in process just like we would do it today, before this law takes place.”
He said the Pre-Trial Fairness Act, a portion of the SAFE-T Act, kicks in after those proceedings.
According to the law, offenses would now be divided into those categorized as detainable and those that are non-detainable.
When accused of a non-detainable offense, law enforcement will release that person from custody with a notice to appear in front of a judge at another time.
If a person is charged with a detainable offense, that suspect will be held in jail and await a detention hearing.
According to the law, prior to the detention hearing, the defendant will have the right to meet with an attorney including from the Public Defender’s Office.
At the detention hearing, the State’s Attorney will be required to file a petition on whether they find it necessary to continue to hold a person in jail as they await trial.
In contrast, in the bond system, a person may be held under custody until they have a bond hearing in front of a judge, regardless of their offense.
At the bond hearing a judge determines the bond amount and the person is released depending on whether they have the money to pay the bond.
Another change being ushered in the no cash bail system is that people charged with low-level offenses, like simple trespassing and disorderly conduct will receive a ticket with a court date in lieu of an arrest.
Winters said Sycamore police already have in place a similar practice. Those who receive a citation go before an administrative hearing officer.
“If the officer can identify the person, if they stop that behavior, what they're doing too ---’ you're trespassing,’ if they're not threatening anybody, and there's no mental or physical, conditions that would prevent their own safety, that the officer is going to issue a ticket in a court date, and they're done.”
DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Sullivan said these new procedures are the biggest change he’s experienced in his career.
It’s what he calls a paradigm shift, but not the doomsday scenario as some of the policy’s critics have characterized. First off, he said, the county jail doors won’t be left wide open for detainees to just walk out.
“I'm not releasing everybody on Monday unless I get a valid court order from the judge saying such, nobody's going to be released,” Sullivan said.
Some concerns brought forth from the audience received a “wait and see” response, like regarding what the court’s finances will be since it will no longer collect bond money that under the bail system help fund its operations.
As all the presenters noted, the new system will call for major adjustments in the criminal justice system, but they also emphasized that community safety will continue to be a priority.