Why Lake County's top prosecutor isn't bailing on the SAFE-T Act

  • Eric Rinehart, Lake County state's attorney

    Eric Rinehart, Lake County state's attorney

  • Vehicles damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida and elsewhere could find their way to the lots of unscrupulous auto dealers here, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is warning.

    Vehicles damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida and elsewhere could find their way to the lots of unscrupulous auto dealers here, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is warning. Associated Press

 
Posted10/7/2022 5:20 AM

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow questions whether lawmakers behind Illinois' controversial SAFE-T Act "are deliberately trying to destroy public order."

McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally, in a lawsuit seeking to block it, calls the legislation a "764-page, ideologically decadent, and typo-ridden bill." Kane County State's Attorney Jamie Mosser says the law, which eliminates cash bail as of Jan. 1, will allow dangerous people to go free, while DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin is concerned the act makes it more difficult to detain people accused of serious crimes.

 

It seems every top prosecutor in the suburbs is opposed to the SAFE-T Act.

Except one.

Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart agrees the criminal justice reform law needs some revisions before New Year's Day, but he remains a supporter and hasn't signed on to efforts to repeal or postpone the law. By some counts, he's one of just two state's attorneys in Illinois still behind it. Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx is the other.

We asked Rinehart this week why he, unlike so many of his peers, isn't bailing on the SAFE-T Act.

"I support ending cash bail, primarily because all the victims (advocacy) groups do," Rinehart told us. "We will never have to tell a victim that their attacker may gain access to cash and post bond.

"Money or access to money is not going to be a part of the analysis anymore," he added. "The federal system doesn't rely upon cash and the Illinois juvenile system doesn't rely upon cash. Judges are empowered to make detention decisions, and we won't have to worry about what's in somebody's wallet."

Embracing change

Under the new system, judges will no longer set an amount of money a defendant can post to go free while awaiting trial. Instead, to detain a suspect, prosecutors will have to provide "clear and convincing evidence" that the defendant poses a specific threat to a person or has a high likelihood of willful flight.

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Detractors say those requirements are too vague and the higher burden of proof will lead to some dangerous people going free.

Critics also have warned that jails across the state will empty come Jan. 1 as dangerous criminals are set free -- some going as far as likening it to the horror movie franchise "The Purge." Rinehart said that's not necessary, and his office is working to prevent it.

"(This month) we will be filing detention petitions to detain the individuals that can be detained under the Act, and we will ask for hearings prior to Jan. 1, where judges are able to make their ruling effective Jan. 1, regarding whether this person will be detained or released," said Rinehart, adding that he plans to hire two more attorneys and an additional victim advocate to help prepare for detention hearings.

After Jan. 1, Rinehart said his policy will be to seek detention for everyone accused of murder, a sex offense or a crime involving use of a firearm, while dealing with other defendants on a case-by-case basis.

And while the elimination of cash bail gets most of the attention, Rinehart said there's a lot more to the SAFE-T Act worth supporting, such as increased funding for police training, the creation of an officer misconduct reporting system and a requirement that officers be equipped with body cameras by 2025.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"These are things that are having a large impact," he said. "There are a lot of aspects to the law that are working."

Buyer beware

With demand still high and inventories low, it can be hard to find a quality used car at a decent price these days.

So, if you suddenly come across a deal that seems almost too good to be true, you might want to think twice. That's because vehicles left damaged by the record flooding caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida and South Carolina may soon find their way to a car lot near you, Attorney General Kwame Raoul warned this week.

"Flooded cars are often shipped to places hundreds of miles from areas hit by storms and may be dangerous to drive or pose health risks," Raoul said. "The current tight market for used cars can make buyers more likely to rush into a sale, but I urge consumers to investigate the condition of any vehicles they are considering purchasing."

While Raoul was quick to point out that most auto dealers are legit, he said less scrupulous businesses will put flooded vehicles through a cleaning process that can make it difficult to tell that it has been damaged by water, and they'll "wash" the car title to conceal its flood or salvage history.

How to tell if a deal is a dud? Raoul recommends having any used car inspected by a mechanic you trust before purchase, and to buy only from reputable dealers or individuals. Look for signs of water damage when checking out a vehicle, such as musty odors inside, mud in the trunk or beneath the seats and dashboard, and water lines under the hood. And be sure to get a written title guarantee.

Lastly, buyers can request a vehicle history report from the dealer, which may reveal whether it was salvaged or flooded. If a dealer does not have access or refuses to provide one, use an automobile's Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, to obtain a vehicle history report from sources such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, www.vehiclehistory.gov; Carfax, www.carfax.com; or Auto Check, www.autocheck.com.

Dogged effort

The Aurora Police Department's latest effort to build relationships between law enforcement and the community has gone to the dogs.

Or at least an oversized, two-legged version of a dog.

The department last week introduced its new mascot, K-9 SPIKE (Serve & Protect with Integrity & Kindness to Everyone), which they describe as a furry friend.

Aurora police last week introduced their new mascot, K-9 SPIKE. It'll make appearances at community events, fundraisers and local schools as part of an effort to build connections between law enforcement and the community.
Aurora police last week introduced their new mascot, K-9 SPIKE. It'll make appearances at community events, fundraisers and local schools as part of an effort to build connections between law enforcement and the community. - Courtesy of the Aurora Police Department

Police say the mascot, made possible thanks to financial assistance from the department's Citizen's Police Academy Alumni Association, gives kids an opportunity to have a positive interaction with the department.

"We believe it is important that we build these positive relationships with children at a young age," officials said in introducing K-9 SPIKE.

The mascot debuted last Saturday at the city's Community Hero Day. It will make future appearances at community outreach events, fundraisers, recruitment events, parades and schools.

• Have a question, comment or story idea? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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