URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — We’ve been talking about it for over a year, and now the SAFE-T Act is in effect. It’s a topic that leaves people divided. Some counties are ready to go, and others still feel work needs to be done.
Illinois is the first state to eliminate cash bail entirely. That means some people behind bars awaiting trial could be eligible for a hearing to be released.
In the Champaign County courtroom on Monday, Judge Brett Olmstead started arraignment by addressing the new cash bail system and explaining it to defendants. In one of the cases, the suspect was issued a bond over the weekend but was in court the day the SAFE-T Act went into effect.
Counties across the state have been preparing since the Supreme Court upheld the SAFE-T Act in July.
“Everyone charged with a crime is either detained in jail while the case is pending or released on conditions of pre-trial release,” Olmstead explained in court.
Arraignment started business as usual, advising defendants of their charges and possible penalties. But questions popped up when debating if the new law or old law applies.
“It was really a timing issue because we had one individual who was arrested over the weekend and the cash bond was set in weekend court, so there was a bit of confusion about what to do with him,” said Julia Rietz, the Champaign County State’s Attorney.
She supports the SAFE-T Act and said her team has been prepared the whole time. But she also knows questions are still going to come up.
“We in Champaign County are working together really well between the public defender’s office, my office, the judiciary, in trying to answer those questions and interpret this law,” Rietz said.
Tyler Heleine, the Chief Sheriff’s Deputy in Coles County, said they’re working through the inevitable bumps too.
“We put a lot of time and effort into making sure we are ready,” Heleine said. “There’s going to be questions and things that come up, but I think we’re prepared to answer those questions.”
He hasn’t always thought the SAFE-T Act was the right move and still thinks work needs to be done, but said they’ve been preparing and have procedures in place.
“The officers are following the chain of command and if they need to, they’ll call me, or the captain, or the Sheriff and then we’ll reach out to the State’s Attorney,” he explained.
Back in Champaign County, Rietz said she’s proud of how everything played out in court for the first time under this new legislature. She said everything went very smoothly because they were not overwhelmed with people in custody.