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Pritzker Signs Criminal Justice Reform Bill Ending Cash Bail

On Monday, February 22, 2021, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice and police reform bill (House Bill 3653) into law. Thus, Illinois became the first state to abolish the use of cash bail. 

Under the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act – a part of HB 3653 – the new law eliminates wealth-based detention and instead gives judges the authority to determine if a defendant is a threat to public safety or a flight risk. Nonviolent defendants who cannot afford pretrial release will no longer remain behind bars and judges must impose the least restrictive conditions to make sure defendants appear in court. 

However, this provision will not go into full effect until 2023. While the law will start slowly rolling out throughout the next two years, other parts will go into effect in July 2021. 

The following are other important changes in the new criminal justice reform law: 

  • Police officers will be required to wear body cameras by 2025. 

  • Law enforcement officials are banned to use chokeholds in situations where they are not authorized to use deadly force. 

  • Narrow the definition of the felony murder rule to prohibit filing first-degree murder charges in cases where a third party caused the death. 

  • Correctional facilities must notify family members about deaths in custody as of July 1. 

  • Anonymous complaints can be filed in police misconduct investigations. 

  • The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board can now investigate misconduct allegations and pursue decertification, rather than waiting until the officer is convicted. 

  • Mandatory minimums can be bypassed for certain offenses, such as drug crimes, shoplifting, or driving on a suspended or revoked license due to payment issues. 

  • Pregnant prisoners will be given certain privileges, such as access to their newborn child, educational materials, and hygiene products like diapers. 

  • Police departments are banned from buying certain military equipment, including firearms and armored vehicles. 

  • Detainees now have the right to make three phone calls within three hours of arrival at the police station before they are questioned, as well as obtain phone numbers from their cellphone’s contact list before the phone is placed in inventory. 

The comprehensive package was backed by the Legislative Black Caucus and more than 100 reform organizations following the death of George Floyd and other cases of misconduct committed by law enforcement officials. 

For more information about the new police and criminal justice reform law in Illinois, contact the Law Office of Steven Fine today at (312) 436-0638