On Wednesday, a Kankakee County judge ruled that the portion of the SAFE-T Act that abolishes cash bail in Illinois is unconstitutional.
In a hearing last week, state attorneys from 65 Illinois counties challenged the new law.
According to the Kankakee County State’s Attorney, the ruling means that the law’s pre-trial release and bail reforms will not take effect in those counties on January 1.
The section of the law would have allowed judges to decide whether or not a defendant poses a risk to public safety and thus could be released without posting cash bail.
Gil Soffer, an ABC7 Chicago Legal Analyst, explains why the judge believes this section of the SAFE-T Act is unconstitutional.
“Specifically what this judge is saying is that judges, the judiciary, has the inherent power to make decisions about pre-trial release and bail, and, in this case, the legislature inappropriately took that away from the judiciary, so they found it was a violation of separation of powers,” Soffer explained.
Other aspects of police accountability and training will continue to be implemented on that date.
The ruling is expected to be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court by the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement, “Today’s decision is a setback for the principles we fought to protect through the SAFE-T Act. The General Assembly and advocates worked together to replace an outmoded criminal justice system with one based on equity and fairness. We cannot and should not defend a system that allows those who pose a threat to their community to simply buy their way out of jail. I thank the Attorney General for his efforts in this matter and hope that the Illinois Supreme Court will hear the appeal as soon as possible.”
“Although the court’s decision is binding in the 64 cases that were consolidated in Kankakee County, it is important to note that it is not binding in any other case, including those involving criminal defendants in any of the state’s 102 counties,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. To finally resolve this challenge to the SAFE-T Act’s pretrial release provisions, Governor Pritzker, the legislative leaders named in the consolidated cases, and I intend to direct our appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, where we will ask the court to reverse the circuit court’s decision.
“Most of the SAFE-T Act’s provisions have been in effect for more than a year, and regardless of today’s circuit court decision, all parts of the SAFE-T Act, including the pretrial release portions addressed in the court’s decision, will go into effect Jan 1. For instance, the right of individuals awaiting criminal trials – people who have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent – to seek release from jail without having to pay cash bail will go into effect in a few short days, despite the court’s ruling against those provisions. Illinois residents in all counties should be aware that the circuit court’s decision has no effect on their ability to exercise their rights that are protected by the SAFE-T Act and the Illinois Constitution.”
House GOP Leader Jim Durkin said, “Today’s ruling is a victory for the often neglected victims of crime and the men and women of law enforcement who wear the badge every day. Legislation of this magnitude must not only be judged on substance, but also on process. In that regard, the Illinois Democrats failed Illinoisans.
“In order to fix this one-sided, anti-law enforcement, and anti-victim act, it is imperative to have a transparent and substantive negotiation with all interested parties, not just a few stakeholders and political insiders. The people of the State of Illinois deserve nothing less.”
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