Illinois Supreme Court Puts SAFE-T Act on Hold

The Illinois Supreme Court put the SAFE-T Act on hold for the whole state on Saturday afternoon, just hours before it was set to go into effect.

It was supposed to start on Jan. 1 at 12:01 a.m. and get rid of cash bail for some crimes. The state Supreme Court said that the measure would take judges’ freedom of choice away when it came to bail.

“When this new law went into effect tomorrow, it was going to be complete chaos at 26th and California,” said Irv Miller, a legal analyst for CBS 2. “I think the Illinois Supreme Court realized that and made this rather late decision today to stop that from happening tomorrow.” “So I think they sat around today and thought, “How are we going to fix this disaster?” And I’m going to call this a disaster if it happens.”

People who don’t like how bail works now say it unfairly hurts the poor.

Illinois Supreme Court puts SAFE-T Act on hold
Illinois Supreme Court puts SAFE-T Act on hold

The Supreme Court has not set a date to hear appeals in the case, so it is unclear when or if the measure will be put into place.

CBS 2 asked about the decision at several state and county offices. In a joint statement, the state’s attorneys for Kane and DuPage counties said, “We are very happy with the decision of the Illinois Supreme Court.”

Attorney General Kwame Raoul also gave a response. He said, “We look forward to putting up a strong defense of the law’s constitutionality… and making sure it goes into effect across the state.”

A judge in Kankakee County ruled that parts of the controversial SAFE-T Act are unconstitutional on Wednesday, just a few days before cash bail was to be taken away from the whole state.

Chief Judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit Thomas Cunnington ruled late Wednesday that the pretrial release parts of the SAFE-T Act break the Illinois Constitution’s “separation of powers” clause. This means those parts will not go into effect in the 65 counties that sued to stop the end of cash bail. Other parts of the law, like the requirement that police departments use body cameras and the new rules for police training, will go into effect as planned on Jan. 1.

Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who have both defended the law, said they would go to the Illinois Supreme Court to fight the judge’s decision.

Here is the whole thing Raoul said:

As we have stated previously, my office filed an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court because in this matter, only the Supreme Court’s final decision on the merits will be binding on all Illinois courts. 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. We look forward to mounting a robust defense of the law’s constitutionality and ensuring that it goes into effect across the state.

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The following is what the Cook County Public Defender’s Office said about the stay:

The Illinois Supreme Court today issued an order suspending implementation of the Pretrial Fairness Act while it reviews a lower court opinion that found the law unconstitutional.

The Cook County, Public Defender’s Office, is disappointed that this historic and transformative law will not take effect as planned tomorrow, Jan. 1.

We are confident that the Supreme Court will swiftly reverse the lower court finding and confirm the constitutionality of the Pretrial Fairness Act. In the meantime, we are grateful that the court is providing uniform guidance to courts across the state.

Money bond is a deplorable practice, and it is high time that Illinois abolish a system that punishes people – most of them Black and Brown – for being poor. We decry the frivolous lawsuit that was brought against the Pretrial Fairness Act almost two years after it was signed into law.

We continue to look forward to a day in the near future when Illinois will move forward as a beacon for our nation, reforming our inequitable pretrial legal system.

The 19th Judicial District Circuit Court said the following in Lake County, Illinois:

On Saturday, December 31, 2022, hours before Lake County was to begin following the SAFE-T Act, eliminating cash bail, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a stay statewide in a Motion for Supervisory Order Kankakee County Circuit Court 22CH16.

As a result, the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court will act in accordance with the Illinois Supreme Court and any amendments or orders entered by or associated with the Pretrial Fairness Act that would become effective on January 1, 2023, are hereby stayed until further order of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Robert Berlin, the state’s attorney for DuPage County, and Jamie Mosser, the state’s attorney for Kane County, both said the following about the stay:

This afternoon, the Illinois Supreme Court granted an Emergency Motion for Supervisory Order jointly filed by our offices that will suspend implementation of the SAFE-T Act pending resolution of current litigation. In our motion, which was filed late Friday afternoon, we sought “an order sufficient to maintain consistent pretrial procedures” to not only clarify the implementation of the SAFE-T Act, but to also maintain an orderly administration of justice. 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.

We are very happy with what the Supreme Court of Illinois decided. Our criminal justice system works best and is fairest when justice is given in the same way to everyone. The decision today will ensure that everyone in Illinois who is accused of a crime gets the same and fair treatment.

Keep following our website for more updates.

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