Criminal Justice

Illinois will end cash bail, require police body cameras in criminal justice overhaul signed by governor

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Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday signed into law an overhaul of the criminal justice system, saying the reforms are a substantial step toward dismantling systemic racism.

The law ends cash bail in 2023 and requires all police to wear body cameras by 2025, report the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to a Feb. 22 press release, the bill “moves Illinois from a system of pretrial detention that prioritizes wealth, to one that prioritizes public safety.”

Judges considering whether to release defendants before their trials will consider whether they pose a danger, whether they are a flight risk and their alleged crime, Capitol News Illinois reports. Crimes in which defendants are not eligible for pretrial release include first-degree murder, sexual assault, arson and felonies involving the use or threat of physical force.

Illinois is the first state to completely eliminate cash bail by statute, according to Capitol News Illinois. Washington, D.C., does not use cash bail, and New Jersey mostly eliminated its use in 2017 when it prioritized nonmonetary conditions of release over cash bail.

The Illinois bill also:

• Defines use-of-force standards for law enforcement. Chokeholds and actions that restrict breathing are banned, unless the situation calls for the use of deadly force. When a suspect is trying to escape arrest, deadly force can be used only if the suspect could harm others and is unlikely to be apprehended later.

• Creates a “duty to intervene” for police officers if they see another officer using excessive force.

• Allows more judicial discretion in sentencing.

• Diverts low-level drug defendants into substance treatment.

• Eliminates license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees because of red light camera and traffic offenses.

• Creates a more robust certification system for police and creates standards for decertification for unethical and unprofessional conduct.

• Requires the retention of police misconduct records and removes a requirement for people filing police misconduct complaints to complete a sworn affidavit.

• Allows detainees to make three phone calls.

Some lawmakers and police groups had opposed the bill. They contended that the use-of-force rules are too strict, releasing pretrial detainees could be dangerous, and body cameras will be too expensive, according to the Associated Press.

According to the Chicago-Sun Times, Illinois State Rep. Jim Durkin, the state House’s Republican leader, said Pritzker’s support for the bill “is an insult to our first responders, law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens of Illinois who want to live free of violence and destruction from the criminal element.”

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