Illinois Cash Bail Unconstitutional

A Kankakee judge ruled that the controversial elimination of cash bail in the SAFE-T Act, sweeping criminal justice reform legislation, was unconstitutional just days before it was due to take effect in Illinois.

The ruling of Judge Thomas Cunnington of the 21st Circuit Court on Wednesday states that the pre-trial fairness section of the bill, also known as eliminating cash bail, is against the state constitution. Cunnington ruled cash bail was specifically mentioned in the state constitution and therefore would need to be put before voters.

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According to a Kankakee County State Attorney Jim Roe, the other provisions of SAFE-T Act, including the requirement for police to wear body cameras and a ban on police chokeholds, were upheld.

Illinois Governor. J.B. Pritzker signed the amended bill into law earlier this month. However, a lawsuit was brought forward by more than 30 prosecutors and sheriffs from the state. Plaintiffs in 65 counties named Pritzker, Attorney General Kwame Roul, Senate President Donald Harmon, and Speaker of The House Chris Welch, among others.

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Rowe stated that the pre-trial fairness section of the bill would not be in effect on January 1st in Illinois counties that were involved in the class-action lawsuit. Raoul’s press release states that the measure will continue to be in effect in the counties that are not parties to the suit. However, it does not apply to other cases, not even those involving criminal defendants from any of the state’s 102 counties. Raoul stated that he plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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