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Lawsuit Filed to Declare Safe-T Act Unconstitutional

Douglas County State’s Attorney Kate Watson and Sheriff Nathan Chaplin joined forced today to file a lawsuit at the Douglas County Courthouse hoping to overturn the controversial SAFE-T-Act from being implemented January 1, 2023 based on numerous constitutional violations.

“This is not about politics, it is about public safety, “said Watson.

“It is my sworn duty as Douglas County Sheriff to protect the people of Douglas County, “said Chaplin. “Criminal justice reform should not be at the expense of public safety. The SAFE T Act was forced through at the 11th hour in lame duck session (in January 2021). Police and prosecutors were excluded from any type of negotiations. They forced this thing through and now we’re left with the fallout.”

While the no-cash bail portion of the law is generating much of the attention, the Act has a lot more changes that will impact community safety, including pre-trial detention. The Act itself is 764 pages, according to a lawsuit brought by Douglas County.

The Act creates, changes or touches 40 different state statute.

“The new law leaves many loopholes for violent offenders to be released. For instance, a first-time violent offender alleged to commit a felony crime is going to be released while awaiting trial, if a firearm was not used,” said Watson, citing an example of an armed robbery suspect who used a knife or crowbar, as opposed to a handgun or rifle. “Risk to innocent civilians would no longer be a reason for a judge to detain someone who’s charged for the first-time offense of kidnapping, or for the first time offense of burglary; even second degree murder, arson.”

Sheriff Chaplin commented that even at a more basic level, the safety of the community is jeopardized by the Act. “Officers are prohibited from making a custodial arrest for Class B misdemeanors, which includes criminal trespass and window peekers.

Instead, an officer is required to issue a citation and has no authority to remove a person from private or public property unless they are being specifically threatening.”

The lawsuit names Governor JB Pritzker, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, House Speaker Christopher Welch and Senate President Donald Harmon as Defendants. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief based upon the Act violating the Illinois Constitution; violating the single-subject law; violating separation of powers; being unconstitutionally vague; and violating the three-readings requirement.

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