Judge rules Illinois law eliminating cash bail is unconstitutional

An Illinois judge has ruled that the portion of the SAFE-T Act that ends cash bail in the state is unconstitutional.

The Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act sought to change multiple parts of Illinois’ justice system with provisions like ending cash bail, limiting how judges determine whether defendants are flight risks, and allowing defendants under electronic monitoring to leave home for 48 hours before they can be charged with escape.

The ruling from a Kankakee County judge on Wednesday came after 65 Illinois counties challenged the law in a hearing last week.

The legislation, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last year, takes effect Jan. 1, but according to Kankakee County state’s attorney, the ruling from the judge means that the pre-trial release and bail reforms that are part of the law will not take effect in those counties next month.

The ruling does not, however, affect other counties in the state that were not a part of the legal challenge to the law, including the state’s most populous Cook County, which includes Chicago.

The portion of the law deemed unconstitutional by the judge would have allowed judges in the state to decide whether defendants pose a risk to public safety and could be released from jail without posting cash bail.

Following the ruling, Pritzker released a statement, insisting that the ruling is a ‘setback.’

‘Today’s ruling is a setback for the principles we fought to protect through the passage of the SAFE-T Act,’ Pritzker wrote. ‘The General Assembly and advocates worked to replace an antiquated criminal justice system with a system rooted in equity and fairness. We cannot and should not defend a system that fails to keep people safe by allowing those who are a threat to their community the ability to simply buy their way out of jail. I thank the Attorney General for his work on this case and look forward to the Illinois Supreme Court taking up the appeal as soon as possible.’

The Illinois Attorney General’s office expected to appeal the ruling before the Illinois Supreme Court.

‘Although the court’s decision is binding in the 64 cases that were consolidated in Kankakee County, it is important to note that it is not binding in any other case, including those involving criminal defendants in any of the state’s 102 counties,’ Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. ‘To definitively resolve this challenge to the pretrial release portions of the SAFE-T Act, Governor Pritzker, the legislative leaders named in the consolidated cases and I intend to appeal the circuit court’s decision directly to the Illinois Supreme Court, where we will ask the court to reverse the circuit court’s decision.’

Fox News’ Teny Sahakian contributed to this report.

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