Helland, Rezin speak about Safe-T Act set to take effect Jan. 1

Standards will be higher to detain offenders in certain circumstances

From left: Grundy County States Attorney Jason Helland, Grundy County Sheriff Ken Briley, and Sen. Sue Rezin

The elimination of cash bond is less than six months away and it worries some officials, including a judicial candidate and state senator.

Illinois became the first state in the country to eliminate cash bail for defendants who are arrested for a crime under the Safe-T Act, as part of the state’s criminal justice reform bill will take effect Jan. 1.

Officials gathered Friday at the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office, including judicial candidate Jason Helland and state Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris), to inform the public of the upcoming changes stating that, while the majority of the public is aware cash bond will be terminated, residents may be unaware of some components, such as the Pretrial Fairness Act.

Helland, a Morris Republican, is running at-large circuit judge in the 13th Judicial Circuit, which serves La Salle, Grundy and Bureau counties. Helland will be opposed on the ballot by Judge Christina Cantlin, a Democrat. Cantlin was appointed to the bench in March, succeeding Eugene P. Daugherity, now an appellate justice.

“One major misnomer, I’ve heard in the community is that there will be no consequences for criminal actions in the state after Jan. 1, and that is not accurate,” Helland said. “Individuals, if they are found guilty of an offense will be held accountable and sentenced accordingly. The pretrial issues are the major issues.”

The act states judges must decide within 24 or 48 hours after the first court appearance, depending on the charge, whether a defendant is jailed without out bail pending trial.

“Under the Safe-T Act, the burden of detain is significantly higher — in some circumstances we’re going to have to immediately release the individual, we are not going to have enough information to retain them under that high standard,” Helland said.

The law says people charged with certain offenses and eligible for probation upon conviction, won’t be detained prior to trial, unless prosecutors prove they attempt or are planning to evade prosecution.

Illinois Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said lawmakers have been trying to address the “real problems inherent in the Safe-T Act” for more than a year and those problems continue to lessen public safety.

“As lawmakers, it is our duty to ensure that the safety of our communities are intact,” Rezin said. “We still have time to do our duty, but we must act quickly, before something happens.

“Instead of eliminating cash bond all together in Illinois, I would recommend modeling our system after New Jersey, which permits cash bail in certain circumstances, to make sure the people, or the offender, who is a public risk to the public is held on cash bail,” Rezin added. “Under this current bill, that simply doesn’t happen.”

The Pretrial Fairness Act is a part of the Safe-T Act that includes certain provisions prohibiting law enforcement from arresting people for particular offenses, issuing a citation and setting a court date instead.

Defendants accused of these types of misdemeanors will be issued citations by police as opposed to arrests. This means if someone trespasses on property and authorities are called, law enforcement may issue a citation without jailing under these new guidelines if the offender has proper identification, does not pose an obvious threat and does not have an obvious medical or mental health issue that poses a risk to their own safety.