The Illinois Safe-T Act (Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act), also known as the Pretrial Fairness Act, is a statute that introduces significant reforms to various areas of the criminal justice system. One of the most significant changes made by the Safe-T Act include the elimination of cash bail in Illinois, the first state to do so statewide. This took effect on September 18, 2023. Eliminating cash bail helps those who cannot afford to pay bail, causing them to be detained while they await trial which can cause instability in their employment, financial stability, parental custody arrangements, and housing situations.

Previously, judges set a cash bail for those who are detained. Depending on the type of bail set, defendants had to pay the entire amount or a percentage. If the detainee pays the required amount, they would be released while awaiting trial. Under the Safe-T Act, however, cash payments are no longer an option. Instead, this Act is designed to hold individuals facing charges for severe and violent offenses in custody while allowing the release of those accused of less serious and non-violent crimes. In this process, judges assess the potential risk posed by detainees upon their release, considering input from both the prosecution and defense before making a decision.

Release can be denied if a judge determines the detainee poses a specific, real and present threat to a person or persons, or has a high likelihood of willful flight. This means that if the judge suspects the defendant might endanger someone or is likely to attempt to escape the state or country, they will not grant pretrial release. It is up to the prosecutor to prove that the defendant poses a real and present threat to the safety of a specific person or persons.

The judge considers multiple factors to determine if there is a specific threat to a person. This includes the defendant’s history, age, and physical condition of the defendant and the victim, whether the defendant has access to a weapon, the type and severity of the offense, and any other factors that could show the court that the defendant may be violent. This process is not much different from how a judge determines if a defendant should be released on bail before trial, but now money is no longer a condition to release.

Detainable vs. Non-detainable offenses.

The Safe-T Act provides for certain categories of crimes for which pretrial release may be denied. These are called detainable offenses. These include but are not limited to first and second-degree murder, predatory criminal sexual assault, aggravated and criminal sexual assault, robberies and burglaries, home and vehicle invasions, arson, certain types of battery, some drug-related offenses, weapon-related offenses, stalking, or any other felony that involves the use of threat or physical force or violence against an individual. Non-detainable offenses include certain types of battery, theft, traffic offenses, petty offenses, business offenses, and class A, B, and C misdemeanors.

 How the process works:

 If the defendant is charged with a detainable offense:

  • The prosecutor requests a detention hearing.
  • The victim(s) of the crime are given notice of relevant bail proceedings.
  • The prosecution will present evidence to show that the defendant presents a danger to a person or the community and whether the defendant is a flight risk.
  • The defense attorney can contest this evidence and fight to obtain a pretrial release for their client.
  • It is then up to the judge to decide to allow the defendant to be released while awaiting trial, or be detained.
  • Some defendants who are released may be subject to home monitoring or curfews.

All other offenders who do not fall under the categories of detainable offenses will be automatically issued a summons to appear in court within 21 days. Additionally, crimes that include probation as a possible punishment may be subject to pretrial detention if the judge determines the defendant is a risk to the public.

Depending on the type of offense alleged, experienced criminal defense lawyers from Johnson Tomei Lenczycki & Goldberg can represent you in your detention hearing to ensure you have the best defense in accordance with the updated procedures established by the Safe-T Act. We handle cases in Lake County, McHenry County, and Cook County. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.



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