Rockford-area state's attorney contemplates dropping out of SAFE-T Act lawsuit

  • In US
  • 2022-12-08 11:13:02Z
  • By Rockford Register Star

Winnebago County State's Attorney J. Hanley said he may no longer be part of a multi-county lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act.

Hanley told the Rockford Register Star Tuesday he is considering withdrawing his name from the suit after Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a series of amendments to the SAFE-T Act.

"It would be irresponsible of me," he said, "not to monitor or to continue to think about the advisability of continuing litigation."

Hanley also said he regrets if any of his comments leading up to the Nov. 8 elections contributed to the "hysteria" over the elimination of the cash bail system on Jan. 1, 2023.

On Tuesday, Hanley spoke of his widely read guest column which ran in the Rockford Register Star in September. The opinion piece outlined what Hanely described as shortcomings in the law, particularly its most controversial provision, the Pretrial Fairness Act, which eliminates cash bail.

More:State's Attorney: More than half of Winnebago County Jail to walk out door Jan. 1

Hanley, a Republican, said he does not regret writing the op-ed, but said, "I do regret to any extent that I contributed to that kind of (misinformation) hysteria."

He added, "It was an important lesson for me. Maybe I was a little bit naive in how I message things, particularly when advocating for legislation."

"Part of the problem is us state's attorneys, we think of ourselves as being apolitical, and we are so careful to make sure that everything we say is factually true. And then I think I underestimated the fact that because I have a "R" next to my name, automatically half the people would see it as not being true and being politically motivated."

In his op-ed, Hanley said come Jan. 1, "Approximately 400 criminal defendants will be released back into our community because our Illinois legislators passed the "SAFE-T Act."

Tuesday, Hanley said that will no longer be the case as the revised bill creates a three-tiered system for defendants already in county jails to request their release after Jan. 1.

He said counties will now have time to conduct detention hearings that must occur within seven, 60 or 90 days depending on the seriousness of the crime, he said.

For example, a person charged with murder and being held on a $2 million bond can file a motion for their release on Jan. 1. The hearing to determine whether or not that person is a danger to the community or a flight risk and should be detained would have to occur within 90 days.

Hanley said, "So, by putting it on the defendants and given those timeframes, it means there will not be a mass exodus on Jan. 1 or shortly thereafter."

The seven-, 60- or 90-day timeframe starts running at the time a defendant files their motion for lease.

Under the revised bill, Hanley said the number of detainable offenses has increased and the bar to declare someone a flight risk or a danger to others has been lowered.

"It allows us to argue and the judge to consider someone's dangerousness to the community as a whole and not just to a specific identifiable person," he said.

The amendments, he said, also bring clarity to a category of crimes in which officers are to issue citations in lieu of bringing someone to jail.

"There were really two exceptions in the previous version," Hanley said. "Now there's three, maybe four. They've added if someone is an immediate danger to themselves or others or if the criminal act is continuing."

Hanley is still among a bi-partisan group of 62 Illinois State's Attorneys who have filed suit to overturn the SAFE-T Act.

Hanley said he will decide whether to remain party to the suit in the next 10 to 20 days.

Calls made Wednesday to Boone County State's Attorney Tricia Smith and Stephenson County State's Attorney Carl Larson to see where they stood on the lawsuit were not returned.

Chris Green: 815-987-1241;; @chrisfgreen

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Winnebago County State's Attorney welcomes revisions to SAFE-T Act


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