For revelers, the countdown on New Year’s Eve leads to a brand-new year, a clean slate. For Illinois state attorneys, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Governor JB Pritzker, December 31 was a countdown toward the SAFE-T Act implementation on January 1, 2023. Signed into law last year, it issues a slew of changes to policing and criminal justice procedures in the Land of Lincoln. However, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a stay that afternoon, leaving proponents and opponents entering the new year with last year’s laws still on the books.
Originally, the SAFE-T Act dictated the rules of police use of force when immobilizing individuals and set a mandate for all officers to be equipped with body cameras no later than 2025. During the legislative process, several amendments were added, as reported by NBC Chicago:
- A ban on all police chokeholds
- New guidelines for “decertification” of police officers
- A ban on police departments purchasing military equipment
- Increased protection for whistleblowers
- Rights for detainees to make phone calls and access their personal contacts before police questioning
- A justification for an arrest must be explained when charging resisting arrest.
The portion of the bill that has been most contentious is the Pretrial Fairness Act, which eliminates cash bail for defendants accused of specific crimes. A group of state attorneys opposed to this element filed a class action lawsuit, and, on December 28, 21st Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Thomas Cunnington ruled portions of the law were unconstitutional. Specifically, he determined the pretrial release provisions did not adhere to the state’s Separation of Powers Clause, the Victim Rights Act and incorrectly amended Article I, Section 9 of the Illinois constitution.
Raoul appealed the decision, which is why it landed on the Supreme Court’s docket on New Year’s Eve, prompting the court’s decision to issue a temporary stay. That said, the portions calling for body cameras and police reforms were allowed to move forward. As of this printing, no further action has been taken.