Illinois Supreme Court halts implementation of cashless bail provision of SAFE-T Act

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[January 02, 2023]  By Dan McCaleb | The Center Square

The Center Square) – The Illinois Supreme Court on New Year's Eve delayed implementation of cashless bail across the state, which was set to go into effect Sunday, New Year's Day.



No cash bail, part of the Pretrial Fairness Act, was included in the controversial SAFE-T Act passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in early 2021.

Dozens of states' attorneys, sheriffs and counties challenged the constitutionality of the cashless bail provision in lawsuits across Illinois. The lawsuits were consolidated, and a Kankakee County judge sided with plaintiffs this week. But the judge's ruling only halted implementation in the 64 counties that brought suit, creating confusion in other parts of the state.

"The emergency motion for supervisory order is allowed," the Supreme Court ruled Saturday. "In order to maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois, the effective date of the Pretrial Fairness Act ... is stayed during the pendency of the appeal ... and until further order of this Court."

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who supports the cashless bail provision of the SAFE-T Act, appealed the Kankakee County court's decision straight to the Supreme Court, prompting Saturday's decision less than a day before it was set to go into effect.

Kankakee Judge Thomas Cunningham said the SAFE-T Act violated the separation of powers and the Victims' Rights Act, noting that the Illinois Supreme Court previously ruled that judges have “independent, inherent authority to deny or revoke bail to ‘preserve the orderly process of criminal procedure.’”

The cashless bail provision of the SAFE-T Act limited judges' discretion in setting cash bail in criminal cases. Most defendants were to be released pretrial without having to post bail, sparking outrage among law enforcement and others that violent offenders would be released into communities.

Dan McCaleb is a veteran editor and has worked in journalism for more than 25 years. Most recently, McCaleb served as editorial director of Shaw Media and the top editor of the award-winning Northwest Herald in suburban Chicago.



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