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posted on 3/21/23

Illinois passed the SAFE-T Act in 2021, which had sweeping criminal legal reform components to it. One of the most hotly debated provisions was eliminating monetary bail. However, there have been statewide legal challenges to the law, resulting in a pending case before the Illinois Supreme Court. At Glasgow & Olsson, we have been following closely to help our clients navigate this complicated and rapidly developing situation. 

What are Problem-Solving Courts? 

Some counties offer programs to defendants who are being held prior to trial. Courts can use programs such as drug treatment to help the defendant with addiction issues. These pretrial programs can be the basis for transferring the defendant’s case from a regular criminal court to a problem-solving court. In Illinois, there are problem-solving courts that implement a therapeutic and collaborative approach with community providers to address underlying behavioral health issues. 

How Would the SAFE-T Act Impact Problem-Solving Courts? 

Under the current state law, the court will set monetary bail for a defendant and then make a recommendation that they be placed in a drug treatment program. Defendants who are eligible for this recommendation are generally individuals facing drug charges such as possession of a controlled substance. These charges are often Class 3 or 4 felonies. The SAFE-T Act precludes setting monetary bail or holding the individual pretrial on certain offenses. Under the act currently under review by the Illinois Supreme Court, Class 3 felonies only qualify for pretrial detention where the defendant has a proven substantial flight risk. Therefore, the SAFE-T Act could impact these defendants’ pretrial ability to be considered for drug treatment programs. Also, pretrial detention can sometimes provide a defendant time to become sober and clear-headed enough to accept treatment, something they may not be able to do if they are released and still using illegal substances. 

However, the SAFE-T Act does provide for increased eligibility for individuals sentenced for drug offenses to enter diversion or probation programs. The law would also increase funding to problem-solving courts. Along with that, there are many other benefits to criminal defendants that indicate the overall intent of the legislation is to help reform the criminal legal system and the impact on the problem-solving courts may be an unintended one. 

Call Glasgow & Olsson

Overall, many provisions of the law are open to interpretation and debate amongst courts and legal experts. It can be confusing and overwhelming to try to parse through the dense statute and existing case law to understand the meaning of the law. Our criminal legal experience at Glasgow & Olsson can help if you are facing a drug charge or any criminal charge and are wondering how the SAFE-T Act applies to you. Currently, the law is not in effect as we await a decision from the Illinois Supreme Court on its constitutionality. However, we are here to help answer any questions you and your loved ones may have about how this impacts you and your case. Contact us today to learn how our experience can get you the results you deserve.