The state of Illinois has been in the limelight ever since it decided to pass a law ending cash bail. Nicknamed the Purge Law in Illinois, it made the state the first of its kind in the United States to eliminate cash bail in its entirety. Although the legislation was expected to come into effect on January 1st, 2023, it faced delays.
It is still mired in a lot of confusion and controversy.
But what’s the law and why is it important to learn about it?
Keep reading as we dig deep to uncover facts about the Illinois Purge Law, its implications, and the latest developments.
What Is the “Purge Law” Of Illinois?
The Purge Law of Illinois is a popular social media term used in reference to the new law that is a part of the state’s Pretrial Fairness Act. The law is aimed at eliminating cash bail and pretrial detention for certain criminal offenses in Illinois.
It was named the Purge Law of Illinois after social media users began likening the law to the popular horror movie The Purge (2013).
The Pretrial Fairness Act is only a part of the SAFE-T Act signed into law in 2021 by the Illinois General Assembly. An acronym for safety, accountability, fairness, and equity today, the SAFE-T Act is a wide-ranging criminal justice bill that aims to reform law enforcement practices statewide.
Why Was the SAFE-T Act Signed?
The SAFE-T Act was years in the making, with reform advocates pushing for the elimination of the cash bail practice. They claimed that the practice that unfairly punishes the poor defendants simply because they cannot afford to post bail.
The act also takes into consideration the fact that 1 out of 3 people in jail aren’t convinted of any crime. In most cases, this is due to a lack of investigation or lack of research on the part of law enforcement.
Either way, it indicates an unfair law practice that criminalizes poverty.
Pushback Against the Pretrial Fairness Act
From being termed as the “Purge Law of Illinois” to facing multiple lawsuits, it suffices to say the act did not sit well with everyone, especially the law enforcement officials.
Many of them filed lawsuits claiming that the Act violates:
- The rights of crime victims
- The right to bail
- The right to separation of powers under Illinois law
However, all these claims were rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court.
The court argued that the law doesn’t violate the right to bail, but only eliminates the practice of ordering a person to pay for their bail. Defendants will still be able to get bail, only on different terms. More on that later.
The Supreme Court also stated that the law doesn’t violate the rights of crime victims either. Instead, it requires that judges consider safety risks to the victims posed by the defendant’s release and also notify victims about bail proceedings.
To refute the claim made by the officials, the court said that the elimination of cash bail is within the legislature’s hands whereas applying the law to individual cases is up to the judges. Therefore, there’s no violation of the right to separation of powers.
The Illinois Purge Law: Details And Misconceptions
While the lawsuit only covers half of it, there have been quite a few misconceptions about the Purge Law in Illinois. If you’re confused after looking at all the viral social media posts and TikToks, you’re probably looking for some real data about the law.
Here are some quick facts to bring you up-to-date on the basics and clear your doubts.
The SAFE-T Act allows for pre-trial release using bail for 12 non-detainable criminal offenses. These include second-degree murder, arson, drug-induced homicide, intimidation, robbery, kidnapping, aggravated battery, burglary, drug offenses, aggravated driving under the influence, fleeing and eluding, and threatening a public official.
Under this effect, prosecutors will have to decide within 48 hours whether a defendant qualifies for pretrial detention or not.
And while it seems like pretrial bail will be easier to achieve for those accused of such crimes, that is not how the law rolls. The court can still deny bail to defendants on certain conditions, these include:
- Defendants charged with a forcible felony (with a mandatory sentence of imprisonment without probation upon conviction) whose release poses a threat to the community/individual
- Defendants charged with domestic battery/aggravated domestic battery whose release poses a threat to community/individual
- Defendants charged with a forcible felony and is likely to willfully flee to avoid prosecution
- Defendants charged with a sex offense whose release poses a threat to the community/individual
- Defendants charged with stalking/aggravated stalking whose release poses a threat to the community/individual
Pretrial Detention And Hearings
Under the new law, it becomes important to establish a new procedure to determine whether a defendant is eligible for pre-trial detention. And the state follows up with this by holding an immediate hearing so prosecutors can argue their position.
The time limit for the same is up to 48 hours from the filing of the petition.
In addition, such hearings are required to be held regularly at set intervals to determine whether the conditions for pre-trial detention are being met. This interval is different based on the risk the individual poses.
For example, a defendant facing low-level charges gets a hearing within seven days while those that are a flight risk get a new hearing within 60 days. Defendants who are denied pre-trial bail concerning safety risks have to wait for 90 days for the next hearing.
Impact On People Already In Jail And Awaiting Trial
The law also allows defendants currently awaiting trial in jail to request hearings under the new law. The defendants won’t be released immediately and must await hearings after which they might be eligible for release.
Latest Update On The Purge Law In Illinois
After a long drawn-out battle that lasted till mid-July 2023, the Pretrial Detention is finally moving forward. With the landmark ruling refuting the false narratives of the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, the law is set to come into effect on September 18.