Illinois high court halts elimination of cash bail

Dec 31, 2022, 7:43 PM | Updated: Jan 1, 2023, 9:44 am

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court has halted provisions of a new law that would eliminate cash bail for criminal defendants, issuing a stay hours before the new policies were set to take effect Sunday.

The high court said in Saturday’s order that the stay was needed to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois” as the court prepares to hear arguments on the matter.

The order said the court would coordinate an “expedited process” for an appeal the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed Friday with the court of a local judge’s ruling, which found that eliminating cash bail for criminal defendants is unconstitutional.

Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly had pushed for eliminating the posting of a cash bond — a practice long used to ensure that people accused of crimes appear at trial. Opponents of requiring bail contend that it results in the poor and innocent sitting in jail awaiting their day in court while the wealthy and guilty go free.

Republicans, meanwhile, said they fear that eliminating cash bail risks potentially releasing dangerous criminals.

In November, Democrats sought to appease that criticism by adding numerous offenses to a list of crimes that qualify a defendant to remain jailed while awaiting trial.

Kankakee County Circuit Judge Thomas Cunnington ruled Wednesday that the General Assembly had violated the constitution’s separation of powers clause by eliminating cash bail in the so-called SAFE-T Act criminal justice overhaul. He said the issue of bail should be left to the judiciary.

Prosecutors and sheriffs from 64 Illinois counties had filed a lawsuit challenging the bail provision, called the Pretrial Fairness Act, although Cunnington’s ruling did not include the injunction they had sought.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Saturday he appreciated the high court’s haste to address the issue. But Raoul, a Democrat, said in a statement it was “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.”

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he was confident the act would be found to be constitutional by the justices. He said in a statement the law’s changes reflect “long overdue reforms that will make Illinois families safer and prevent violent offenders from being able to buy their freedom just because they are wealthy enough.”

Before the state Supreme Court issued its stay, Illinois counties were positioned to handle defendants’ first court appearances quite differently beginning Sunday. Cook County officials were vowing to proceed with the reforms while many counties named in the lawsuit said they would not implement them.

The SAFE-T Act was borne of the May 2020 police-involved murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Buoyed by a state Supreme Court commission that recommended reform, lawmakers eliminated bail to ease the burden on defendants, who are innocent until proven guilty, who can’t afford the price of pretrial freedom.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

19 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

2 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

2 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

3 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

4 days ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

5 days ago

Illinois high court halts elimination of cash bail