Court Approves Eradication of Cash Bail

Illinois will soon be the first state in the U.S. to do away with its cash bail system, following a ruling from the state Supreme Court.

The state passed what’s known as the SAFE-T Act, and one provision in it called for the end to the practice of cash bail on January 1. Once it was passed, though, sheriffs and prosecutors from multiple counties throughout the state challenged the law in court.

The challengers said that the law was against the state constitution. They also said it put law enforcement officers at risk and reduced overall public safety.

Last December, a judge in Kankakee County ruled that the law could not proceed since it wasn’t constitutional. But, on Tuesday of this week, the high court in Illinois overturned that ruling, allowing the law to go into effect.

Now, per this new law, judges won’t be able to require a suspect who is charged with a crime to post any bail before they’re able to be released from jail while they are awaiting their trial. However, any suspect who is determined to be a flight risk or is a danger to the public can still be held in jail while awaiting trial.

Now that the state Supreme Court has overturned the lower court ruling, cash bail is set to end throughout Illinois on September 18. There are other states that have enacted similar reforms in most cases. Illinois, though, is the first state that will completely eliminate cash bail, according to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times.

In the state Supreme Court ruling, Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote:

“The Illinois Constitution of 1970 does not mandate that monetary bail is the only means to ensure criminal defendants appear for trials or the only means to protect the public. Our constitution creates a balance between the individual rights of defendants and the individual rights of crime victims. The Act’s pretrial release provisions set forth procedures commensurate with that balance.”

The SAFE-T Act was signed into law last year by Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker. On Tuesday, following the state Supreme Court ruling, he released a statement that read:

“I’m pleased that the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act and the elimination of cash bail. We can now move forward with historic reforms to ensure pre-trial detainment is determined by the danger an individual poses to the community instead of by their ability to pay their way out of jail.”

Many people who criticize the law have said that it shouldn’t have been something decided by lawmakers in the state. Rather, they believe voters should have been given a chance to decide as part of a ballot. People are concerned that with more suspects back on the streets after their arrest, residents of the state won’t be as safe as before.

Jim Rowe, the state’s attorney from Kankakee County who sued to have the law overturned, issued a statement this week that read:

“The people of Illinois deserve better than bail reform that is passed under cover of darkness at 4 a.m. when all the state was sleeping; they deserve to have a voice in any constitutional amendments through the power of their vote; and they deserve to be governed by a government of, for and by the people – not by legislative or gubernatorial fiat.”