Starting last week, Illinois courts may no longer hold hearings or operate a process that requires cash bail for criminal defendants. Although 49 U.S. states continue to have a process in place that seeks to ensure the good behavior of criminal defendants prior to trial through the use of financial incentives, Illinois is no longer one of them. Under a new law that went into effect on Monday, September 18, Illinois courts can no longer impose cash bail on defendants after a due-process hearing. The Prairie State is the only one of the 50 states where the courts no longer have pretrial powers falling into this category.
Last week, many Illinois criminal defendants were being released on their own recognizance. Defendants accused of low-level misdemeanors will be cited, given a court date, and automatically released pending their court date. For persons accused of felonies, and higher-level misdemeanors, a detention hearing procedure will continue to be imposed, but most Illinois criminal defendants found last week they could meet the new conditions for avoiding Illinois pretrial detention.
The stated goal of what is called the “Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act,” enacted in January 2021 and going into effect last week, is positive social reinforcement for criminal defendants. Information about the defendant’s home and community are explicit elements of the defendant’s conditions to be presented at the initial hearing. In the majority of cases, these conditions will lead to the non-detention and pretrial release of the defendant under the new law. These release conditions will apply for a significant number of defendants who are facing trial for felony criminal offenses.
Because of these elements, many Illinois initial pretrial hearings conducted last week included the presentation to the court of overlapping promises made to law enforcement and authorities by the defendant, and also by one or more persons described by the defendant as members of the defendant’s family or friendship group. The promises were pledges that, going forward, the defendant would cooperate with the criminal process. Defendants are now encouraged to bring their friends and family members to the offices of the public defenders and state’s attorneys where they are being charged. The state’s attorneys, on their end, are strongly pressured by the new law to recognize the validity of the social networks of most defendants, and to work out voluntary deals with each social network to ensure that the defendant will continue to cooperate with the process.
The new law requires that each criminal defendant be assigned a public defender prior to their first appearance in court (rather than after the bond hearing). No additional funding has been provided by the State of Illinois to enable local officials and public defenders to keep up with the increased demands upon their time. In addition, it is feared that a subset of the criminal defendants who are allowed out on the own recognizance will respond by going back out on the street and committing one or more additional criminal offenses.
Criminal acts for which an accused defendant may be granted pretrial release on a no-cash-bail basis include acts as serious as aggravated battery to a police officer. Illinois House Republicans voted unanimously against the Pretrial Fairness Act.
Illinois crops enter field-drying cycle. After periods of heavy rainfall in June and July throughout much of Illinois, the rains ceased, and the fields began to dry out. Farmers reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that, as of Sunday, September 17, topsoil moisture was “short” or “very short” in 68% of Illinois fields. These dry conditions are encouraging most of the standing corn and bean plantings of Illinois to move towards harvest. The USDA reports that 70% of Illinois corn is “mature,” and 66% of the Illinois soybeans have begun dropping their leaves.
This does not mean, however, that most of these crops will be harvested immediately. In the case of a slightly sub-optimal crop yield, which is what Illinois conditions are currently pointing towards, most farmers will want as much of their cash crops to be field-dried as possible. Moist corn and watery beans cost more to haul and must be sold at a discount at the elevators. As of September 17, only six percent of Illinois corn had been harvested, which compared to the 70% maturity rate on the same date meant that almost two-thirds of Illinois corn was standing brown in the fields. The farmers will test their crops’ field moisture levels and prepare for harvest time. The Illinois yields of both corn and soybeans were rated as good-to-fair, with very few farmers reporting “excellent” bumper crops.
State Police file an order, called an “emergency rule,” to ban certain firearms, firearm fittings, and ammunition types in Illinois. The state law enforcement agency was required to take action to complete the implementation of the Protect Illinois Communities Act. This is the title given by supporters to the new gun control law that was enacted in January 2023. The law takes steps intended by the sponsors to sharply discourage or ban the sale and possession of certain cartridge belts, fittings, and weaponry. The items enumerated are those that are loosely called “assault weapons,” and their ammunition and fittings. The new Act covers certain weapons, weapon attachments, .50 caliber rifles, and .50 caliber cartridges.
The terms of the rule require persons who are residents of Illinois, and who possess any of these items that will be banned going forward, to submit an “endorsement affidavit” to the State Police. The owner will be required to affirm that the banned items were legally purchased prior to the effective date of the Protect Illinois Communities Act, which was January 10, 2023. Endorsement affidavits will be accepted starting October 1, 2023, and ending December 31, 2023. The State Police says that their forward-looking ban will allow persons who submit the required paperwork to keep those items that have been grandfathered in through submission of the required paperwork. These will be registered firearms and firearm-related items, and the State Police will know where these firearms and items are.
Many firearm owners continue to be deeply concerned by the Protect Illinois Communities Act and the rules published to enforce it. A lawsuit against the new law has been filed in a federal appeals court. The judges of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals are currently weighing the constitutionality of the law that this new State Police rule attempts to enforce. This federal lawsuit is an active case that has not yet been decided.
John Deere lays off 225 in Quad Cities. The maker of farm machinery is adjusting production levels at its East Moline plant, leading to the indefinite layoffs. Persons laid off are men and women engaged in the actual production of the farm machinery used to harvest crops in North America and around the world. Sharply increased interest rates, and changes in agricultural finance, are forcing many U.S. farmers to maintain their existing equipment and cut back their equipment turnover.
The East Moline-based John Deere Harvester Works is one of the largest production complexes in the Quad Cities. Until last week, the complex maintained a headcount of 2,300 employees, with almost 2,000 of the total working in production and maintenance. The works will remain in operation. The layoff announcement was made on Wednesday, September 20.
Illinois fish welcome the disappearance of long-lived toxic chemical. The “miracle insecticide” DDT, which came into use under emergency conditions during World War II, was widely sprayed around America for decades after the war as a broad-spectrum anti-mosquito agent and insecticide. After two decades of use, Americans discovered that the chemical was very toxic and durable. Rachel Carson’s investigative work “Silent Spring” (1962) is widely credited with bringing the DDT issue to light.
One of the places DDT and its chemical brothers – a class of chemicals called “organochlorine pesticides” – came to rest was in Illinois waterways and wetlands. The chemicals were consumed by water microorganisms, leading to their concentration in the bodies of Illinois fish. This endangered Illinoisans who ate the fish. In 1974, the State of Illinois began testing fish from its waterways for organochlorine pesticides. The DDT chemical was in the process of being banned throughout North America, but traces remained in Illinois lakes and rivers for many years.
After the nationwide ban, the concentrations of DDT and its brother chemicals slowly declined throughout Illinois’ water. Illinois’ fish, and its fish-eating birds such as bald eagles, welcomed the change. Last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced that Illinois has permanently ended its practice of testing Prairie State fish for DDT. The presence of these chemicals, after many decades of the ban, have dwindled down to near zero, and they are no longer a threat to Illinois water life. The announcement was made on Monday, September 18.
The Illinois Veterans Home at Manteno hosts a volunteer force of more than 50 dedicated helpers. The volunteers provide hands-on care to Illinois veterans and their spouses who have moved into a full-time-care setting. The Manteno IVH is looking for additional volunteers who can help transport residents to church services, and who can lead creative projects for members in the on-site woodworking shop. Existing volunteers are active participants in cycles such as food serving, escorting residents to appointments, leading projects, playing games, and sorting goods donated to the Veterans Home.
The Manteno Home is located on the southeast side of Manteno in northern Kankakee County, near Interstate 57. The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs issued a call for Manteno volunteers on Tuesday, September 19.
Fall color season gets closer. With the coming of autumn, Illinois will soon be starting up its fall color season and adjacent round of autumn festivals. The Illinois Tourism Board’s Enjoy Illinois website will operate its fall color map showing different sections of Illinois and the color conditions in each section. The map differentiates between Northern Illinois, Central Illinois, and Southern Illinois. Not only the dates but also the colors differ from region to region, and even from county to county. Different soil conditions encourage trees of different species, and some broadleaf trees and shrubs generate brighter colors than other. In Illinois, a shrub called the smooth sumac often produces bright red roadside leaves.