Illinois becomes first state to eliminate cash bail

By DYLAN SMITH, Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) — On Monday, Feb. 22, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a criminal justice reform bill that makes Illinois the first state to eliminate cash bail. House Bill 3653 is a highly controversial piece of legislation that has sparked concern with local law enforcement throughout the state. 

The bill is the result of several years of work by government officials, community advocates and lawmakers, and aims to move Illinois into a state that prioritizes public safety. According to lawmakers, eliminating cash bail will also rid the state of benefiting only the wealthy.   

“This legislation marks a substantial step toward dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities, our state and our nation, and brings us closer to true safety, true fairness and true justice,” said Gov. Pritzker, in a briefing at Chicago State University. 

With the cash bail policy set to go into effect in 2023, Illinois judges will then have the ability to allow defendants to go free before trial at the judges’ own discretion. 

The Macomb Police Department and McDonough County Sheriff’s Office was unavailable for comment, but Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker did express concern to NEWS3 via email, and presented the following comments to consider under the bill. 

“If you call the police because an unwanted person is peeking in your windows or standing in your yard or place of business and you don’t want them there for a legitimate reason, you can call the police, but the police will not be able to physically remove that person,” Barker said. “All they can do is issue a citation (like a traffic ticket). Then, if the unwanted person still doesn’t leave and is not being threatening, the police will have no authority to arrest them or get them to ‘move along.’ This applies to all Class B and Class C misdemeanors.”  

Said Barker, “Consider this scenario: The police respond to an armed offender that just committed a crime with a gun running towards a schoolyard with children. Under current law, they would be authorized to use deadly force to stop him. Under the new definition of “imminent,” however, they cannot stop the subject and would have to wait for him to actually get to the schoolyard and threaten the children and potentially shoot one before they could use deadly force to stop the subject.” 

Chief Barker referred to the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP) Web page to provide the above scenarios: https://www.ilchiefs.org/ed-update-4-hb3653. 

The objectives of House Bill 3653 will go into effect during the next two years with the earliest provisions taking place this July.