Hours before cash bail was set to end in dozens of counties across the states, the Illinois Supreme Court put cash bail on hold in all 102 counties as it prepares to debate whether or not the pretrial release provisions in the newly passed SAFE-T Act are constitutional.
The court Saturday evening issued an order suspending the implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act until further notice "in order to maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois" as the state appeals a judge's ruling on the matter.
“It is important to note that the order issued today by the court is not a decision on the merits of the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act, and I appreciate the court’s interest in expediting the appeal," Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. "We look forward to mounting a robust defense of the constitutionality of the law and ensuring that it goes into effect across the state.”
A Kankakee judge ruled Thursday that the pre-trial release provisions in the SAFE-T Act are unconstitutional, leaving cash bail in place in several counties that were part of the lawsuit. Outside of the elimination of cash bail, other portions of the SAFE-T Act, including new requirements for body cameras and other police reforms, were allowed to stand, however.
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Cunnington's ruling held that the pretrial release provisions in the SAFE-T Act violated the Separation of Powers Clause, the Victim Rights Act, and unconstitutionally amended Article I, Section 9 of Illinois' constitution, which codified cash bail in the state.
Cunnington was swayed by the plaintiffs' argument that the state constitution provides for bail in stating, “All persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties,” while Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul's staff contended that the statement merely assures defendants that there's a way out pending trial.
The state appealed that decision.
The elimination of cash bail was set to take effect Jan. 1, but will now be on hold as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the appeal. The court's order states that it plans to "expedite" the appeal process as questions over the future of the measure linger.
State's attorneys in Kane and DuPage counties had requested the Illinois Supreme Court delay the elimination of cash bail amid confusion over how a divided state would work.
"Had the SAFE-T Act gone into effect on January 1, 2023, while litigation is pending, the administration of justice in Illinois would have been uneven, thus harming all the citizens of the State. Additionally, DuPage and Kane Counties, would have faced additional challenges as multiple municipalities are in multiple counties, some of which were bound by the pending litigation and others that were not," DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser said in a joint statement. "We are very pleased with the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision. The equal administration of justice is paramount to the successful and fair administration of our criminal justice system. Today’s decision will ensure that those accused of a crime in Illinois will receive equal and fair treatment throughout the State."
What is the SAFE-T Act?
Emerging after the Minneapolis police beating death of George Floyd in May 2020, the SAFE-T Act sets rigorous new training standards for law enforcement, spells out rules for police use of force in immobilizing troublesome suspects, requires body cameras on all police by 2025 and more.
Authored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, the act was approved by the Illinois General Assembly last year, bringing "significant changes" to things like police training policies, police accountability, transparency in law enforcement and the rights of detainees and prisoners, according to Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr., who sponsored the bill.
Among the changes it is set to bring are the elimination of monetary bail, a requirement that all police officers wear body cameras by 2025, a ban on all police chokeholds, new guidelines for "decertification" of police officers, and an end to suspended licenses for failure to pay, among several other things. It also bans police departments from purchasing military equipment like .50 caliber rifles and tanks, increases protection for whistleblowers, and adds to rights for detainees to make phone calls and access their personal contacts before police questioning.
Detainees, prisoners and all those who interact with police officers would have the expectation of prompt medical care while in custody, with special accommodations made for pregnant women. Charges of resisting arrest must cite a justification for the original arrest that was allegedly resisted against under the measure, as well.
For a complete list of what was included in the original SAFE-T Act click here.