Kankakee County State Attorney Jim Rowe Spreads Disinformation About Detainable Offenses

“There is no ability to detain a sex offender who has refused to register, a fentanyl dealer, or someone who steals a vehicle, and that is all absurd to me,” said Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Row in the Daily Journal.

Fact Check: FALSE

The Briefing

Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, all Class 3 felonies and above are detainable offenses for which someone can be denied release when certain findings are made.  

Failure to register, distribution of controlled substances, and possession of a stolen vehicle are all felony offenses for which pretrial release may now be denied when certain findings are made—and which were not eligible for detention prior to the new law. Judges could only order a money bond, which if paid, would guarantee an individual’s release. Now judges have the power to deny release altogether when someone poses a risk of intentionally evading prosecution. 

While the Pretrial Fairness Act eliminated the use of money bond as both a condition of release and a means to detain someone who didn’t have the money to pay, it does not eliminate the court’s ability to jail someone awaiting trial. Prior to the Pretrial Fairness Act taking effect, fewer than one in five people (19%) with pending felony cases was in jail custody. Additionally, research shows that under the former money bond system, “the majority of those charged with detainable offenses [were] released within a week.

Does the Pretrial Fairness Act Mean Everyone Will Be Released Before Trial?

No. The Pretrial Fairness Act centers the presumption of innocence and ensures that judges make informed and deliberate decisions about who might be incarcerated before trial and what—if any—pretrial conditions people may face when released. This was not the case before; under the old system, a person’s freedom depended on wealth. Prosecutors may file a motion to detain a person accused of any forcible felony, all sex-related charges, all domestic violence charges, and most forms of gun-related felonies if they believe they might pose a threat to another person or the community. Anyone charged with a serious crime can be jailed if they are likely to willfully flee prosecution. And anyone who is already being supervised by the court - on pretrial release, probation, or parole - who is arrested for a new charge can also be held in custody.

What is the Pretrial Fairness Act?

The Pretrial Fairness Act is the portion of the SAFE-T Act (Public Act 101-0652) that makes Illinois the first state to abolish money bond. The law includes additional provisions aimed at improving the pretrial process and increases access to the presumption of innocence.  . . The U.S. Supreme Court is unequivocal that before trial, release is the “norm” and detention is the “carefully limited exception.” The Pretrial Fairness Act makes Illinois’ pretrial system more effective, efficient, and fair. 

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