ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Sixty-two state’s attorneys throughout Illinois, both Democrat and Republican, have filed suit to block the implementation of a new law that would abolish cash bail on January 1st, 2023.
In a joint statement, released Monday, the undersigned state’s attorneys call the law unconstitutional and should be overturned, saying it alters the state’s Constitution without a voter-approved amendment.
“As the Chief Legal Officers of our respective Counties we swore to protect and defend the rule of law. Therefore, we are compelled to inform the people of the State of Illinois, that the SAFE-T Act is unconstitutional and a serious threat to public safety, specifically, to victims of and witnesses to violent crimes in our communities,” the statement reads. “This is not political. We are Democrats and Republicans. Whatever the result of the various elections decided tomorrow, our fundamental legal concerns with the SAFE-T Act remain.”
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today Act, or the SAFE-T Act, was introduced by the Illinois Black Caucus as part of Black legislators’ response to the murder of George Floyd, and was passed by the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives in the early hours of Jan. 13, 2021.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill into law on Feb. 22 of that year, whereupon it became known as Public 101-0652.
The act abolishes the money bail system beginning Jan. 1, 2023. According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the cash bail system disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities and other underrepresented or impoverished groups, who can’t afford bond.
Someone who is arrested after Jan. 1 may be released prior to their trial, based on the assumption of innocence guaranteed in the United States Constitution. However, a judge will have the power to determine whether a person should be released based on a public safety evaluation rather than the size of the defendant’s wallet.
Certain crimes, including forcible felonies, stalking, and domestic abuse, guarantee the revocation of pretrial release; meaning, they will not be released after arrest. This is outlined in the act’s section 110-6.1.a.
Many Illinois law enforcement agencies have warned the act will embolden criminals and make it harder for police to keep offenders off the streets.
Lawsuits filed by individual state’s attorneys have been consolidated into one in Kankakee County, so that a ruling will affect each county simultaneously.
A briefing and oral arguments are scheduled to be heard in court on December 7th, and the group says they expect a ruling by December 15th.
“There has been much confusion and vitriol surrounding the passage and haphazard attempts to implement the SAFE-T Act over the past year and a half. We are hopeful that now, calmer heads will prevail, the rule of law will be respected, and the judiciary in its wisdom will once again make it clear that the constitution’s mandates must be followed and the general assembly may not simply ignore them whenever it pleases,” the statement said.
The 62 state’s attorneys represent counties including Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.