No, There Is No 'Purge' Law in Illinois

No, There Is No ‘Purge’ Law in Illinois

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Illinois enacted a package that included sweeping reforms in the field of criminal justice that will take the law in the month of the month of January in 2023. A component of the package includes known as the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA) is a law that eliminates bail cash for people who are accused of crimes, and makes it more difficult to hold suspects in detention prior to their trial.

Some critics have called the law “the law of the ‘Purge'” in reference to the dystopian horror flick that depicts a world where every crime such as murder is legalized for a short period of time each year.

However, does the law actually be that extensive?

It’s not so.

The Pretrial Detention Before Reform

Prior to 2021’s reforms, Illinois pretrial detention procedures were based on a predetermined pattern. An accused would be granted a hearing on detention typically within 72 hours following the being arrested. It usually takes under five minutes. The prosecutor will outline the allegations and suggest the amount of bail. The judge will then make a decision regarding the terms of release, which would include the amount the suspect must pay prior to being freed from the custody.

People who were able to afford bail were released on bail. People who could not even though they had no chance in escaping prosecution, or repeat offenders — were kept in jail until the end of their trial. This meant that, those who were wealthy and well-off got away, the less fortunate and less fortunate remained in prison.

In addition, this led to more inequality. Prisoners had greater difficulty making preparations for their trial and aiding lawyers in the defense of their case, leading to higher conviction rates and longer prison sentences. After serving their sentences individuals were discriminated against in the job market and the emotional disruption that it caused to their lives as well as the lives of their family members.

Illinois’ SAFE-T Act

The death of Floyd sparked the nation to confront apparent racism in the justice system. In the presence of his fellow members from the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act.

The SAFE-T Act covers three broad aspects of reforming the criminal justice system:

  • Police accountability
  • Corrections (jails and prisons)
  • Procedures for criminal pretrial

The PFA is the law that regulates pretrial proceedings. The aim is to shift away from a system based on wealth of pretrial detention to one that is dependent on the defendant’s fear of being arrested or the risk of repeat offense.

Elimination of the Cash Bail

Illinois was the first state in America to eliminate bail in cash. It was the Black Caucus pushed for this restriction based on their belief that too many individuals were in pretrial detention because they were unable to pay bail.

The point is that they are missing. The study revealed that the median accused had a salary of less than $7,000 in during the year prior to their arrest and just 50% of the accused are able to pay bail, even if it’s they are able to post bail at $5,000 or less. That’s roughly half the 267,000 or so pretrial detainees who are held in Illinois every year.

Pretrial Detention Hearings

The PFA will also change the procedure for detention hearings. If the prosecutor is of the opinion that the accused must be detained prior to the trial, they have to state the reasons for this in a request to hold a hearing. Hearings, during which the accused receives legal counsel is required to take place “immediately.”

In order to impose pretrial detention the judge must establish an evidence-based and persuasive argument that:

  • The defendant was the one who committed the crime.
  • The defendant makes a threat against a particular people
  • None of the pretrial conditions will safeguard the person

Lawmakers consider that this level of protection is needed to ensure the constitutional presumption that the innocuous accused.

Are the PFA one of the laws that is a “Purge?

In contrast some critics assert that the PFA basically allows criminals to get a license to continue to commit crimes. The social media is flooded by posts written by right-wing bloggers on how the law will allow those charged with criminal acts that are violent, such as second-degree murder to be released within hours of being detained. So the story goes.

They’re also wrong. It’s not the way is required by law. It simply eliminates the inability to make bail payments as the reason one should remain in custody for pretrial detention. Justice should not be restricted to those who are able to pay for the cost. It’s not a crime to be poor.

The PFA is not a guarantee that people who are dangerous will get back in the streets. In fact, it’s the opposite. If a judge finds that someone’s actions pose a risk to another person or to another person, they can and is held until trialeven though it isn’t a crime that requires the hearing of detention. If someone is an actual risk of flight, they’ll be held. The PFA simply sets a strict level of standard that the government must comply with if it wishes to detain you prior to the time that you are convicted of any offense.

Much Ado About Nothing?

If you’re reading this, you might think about the reasons for the commotion. Even the Editorial Board of the Chicago Tribune, a moderate-to-right-leaning media organization, agrees that the PFA isn’t the purge. With crime being an issue that is a major source of polling for candidates who are conservative and the like, it’s likely for the “Purge” metaphors aren’t likely to end until after the midterm elections in 2022.

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