Sen. Sue Rezin says SAFE-T Act changes fall ‘far too short’

Senator says judicial branch denied discretion to keep public safe

Morris Republican Sue Rezin speaks at a news conference Tuesday about the state's plan to pay down its Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said House Bill 1095 – an amendment to the SAFE-T Act – didn’t address the concerns law enforcement officials, state’s attorneys and the public have regarding the original bill, which drew criticism for eliminating cash bail in 2023.

“Our judicial branch is still denied the discretion they should have in order to keep the public safe,” Rezin said in a news release Thursday after the bill’s 38-17 passage in the Senate and 71-40 passage in the House.

House Bill 1095 expands the list of crimes for which a judge can order pretrial detention, adds to what a judge can consider when determining whether a defendant is a risk of willful flight from prosecution, and standardizes language regarding a defendant’s danger to public safety, among several other changes, Capitol News Illinois reported.

The measure still will end the existing wealth-based system of pretrial detention in favor of one based on an offender’s level of risk to the public or of fleeing prosecution.

The bill didn’t receive any Republican support. GOP members were upset that they were not involved in negotiations regarding the amendments.

State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington)

“Since the beginning of this process, sponsors of the SAFE-T Act have worked behind closed doors, filing legislation at all hours of the night, rushing through flawed bills on partisan votes,” said Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington. “It should come as no surprise that we are once again looking at a major bill with massive flaws.”

Rezin joined Republicans in committee and on the Senate floor who criticized the measure’s approach to the crime of burglary. According to the bill, residential burglary or burglary “where there is use of force against another person” is detainable under the dangerousness standard.

But if a burglary doesn’t meet those criteria, such as someone stealing change from an unlocked car, it’s not detainable based on an offender’s risk of danger to the community.

The offense still would be detainable under a “willful flight” standard, and anyone already out on pretrial release can be detained when charged with any crime. Per the law, “willful flight” means “intentional conduct with a purpose to thwart the judicial process to avoid prosecution.”

The amendment expands existing law, noting “isolated” nonappearances are not evidence of willful flight but “patterns of intentional conduct to evade prosecution … may be considered as factors in assessing future intent to evade prosecution.”

“Even worse, HB 1095 amends the SAFE-T Act to make it more difficult for the public to learn about an arrested individual who may be out on pretrial release for a different offense,” Rezin said, referring to a provision that removes a requirement that news media have access to the conditions of a defendant’s pretrial release.

Advocates argued that previous law only required bail amounts to be included within that information before the SAFE-T Act, so there was no need to add release conditions that could divulge victim information.

“The decision to do as little as possible to fix the real problems within the SAFE-T Act is a disservice to the people of Illinois and frankly embarrassing considering the majority party had two years to make significant changes,” Rezin said.

According to the bill, a person to be held on the dangerousness standard must be proven to be a “real and present threat to the safety of any person or persons or the community, based on the specific articulable facts of the case,” according to Capitol News Illinois.

It clarifies and defines that all people charged with “forcible felonies” and nonprobationable offenses may be detained under the dangerousness standard. Individuals accused of domestic violence also may be held pretrial.

It adds hate crimes, felony animal torture, aggravated driving under the influence causing bodily harm, DUI while operating a school bus and other DUI charges as detainable offenses if the defendant is deemed dangerous.

“While this newest trailer bill takes some good steps, it is still far away from what we need to keep Illinoisans safe,” Barickman said. “This bill does not address the millions of dollars in costs that the SAFE-T Act will create, and it does little to empower judges to keep dangerous criminals behind bars. Further, it actually takes away critical transparency from our criminal justice system.”

Jerry Nowicki Capitol News Illinois

Jerry Nowicki works for Capitol News Illinois

Derek Barichello

Derek Barichello

Derek is a Streator High and University of Illinois graduate. He worked at the Albany-Herald in Albany, Ga., and for Sauk Valley Media in Sterling, before returning to his hometown paper. He's now news editor for both the NewsTribune and The Times.