CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — On Tuesday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed an amendment to the SAFE-T Act, which will abolish cash bail on January 1st, 2023.

The 300-page amendment sought to clarify language in the original Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act, which was introduced by the Illinois Black Caucus as part of Black legislators’ response to the murder of George Floyd, and was passed by the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives in the early hours of Jan. 13, 2021.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill into law on Feb. 22 of that year.

Most of the changes in the amendment focus on tightening up vague language that left law enforcement and prosecutors confused about how the new system would work.

Over the summer, claims that police could not arrest trespassers under the new law ran rampant. The Supreme Court ruled that officers did have discretion to arrest in those cases, but the amendment makes it clear they will have the power to arrest anyone if they decide they pose a risk to the people around them.

The law also sets clear guidelines for what happens to the people in jail currently awaiting trial once Jan. 1 hits. Anybody in jail on Jan. 1 will get a pre-trial release hearing within at most 90 days starting from the first of the year if this amendment passes.

More felonies were also included in what is called the detention net, or the list of offenses that qualify somebody as a “real and present threat to the safety of any person or persons or the community”, and therefore should not get released pre-trial. Some of these felonies include second-degree murder, aggravated driving under the influence, and burglary.

Legislators also changed the language for prosecutors detaining people they have evidence they view as a safety threat.

“At all pretrial hearings, the prosecution shall have the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that any condition of release is necessary,” the amendment reads.

“I’m pleased that the General Assembly has passed clarifications that uphold the principle we fought to protect: to bring an end to a system where wealthy violent offenders can buy their way out of jail, while less fortunate nonviolent offenders wait in jail for trial,” Pritzker said Tuesday. “Advocates and lawmakers came together and put in hours of work to strengthen and clarify this law, uphold our commitment to equity, and keep people safe.”  

“This measure is part of a continued effort to address misconceptions and sincere concerns brought forward by law enforcement, survivors, and advocates,” said Rep. Dave Vella (D-Rockford). “It’s a reminder of the need to work together, and of our shared mission to make every community safer for families across our state.” 

Sixty-two State Attorneys from across the state are challenging the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act and have filed lawsuits to overturn it before it goes into effect. The lawsuits were consolidated into one in Kankakee County, so any ruling would have an immediate effect in all co-signed Illinois counties.

A briefing and oral arguments are scheduled to be heard in court on December 7th, and the group says they expect a ruling by December 15th.

The 62 state’s attorneys represent counties including Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.