Illinois Supreme Court Rules Cash Bail Ban Is Legal

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Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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The Illinois Supreme Court ruled a ban on cash bail is constitutional in a 5-to-2 ruling Tuesday.

The ruling sets Illinois up to be the first state to ban cash bail. Democratic state Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the state’s SAFE-T act into law in 2022, which included a provision eliminating cash bail in Illinois, according to ABC7 Chicago. The provision, also known as the Pre-Trial Fairness Act, was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, but had been halted due to several lawsuits challenging the law.

Cash bail allows a defendant to deposit money with the court and stay out of jail until their trial. If the defendant does not show up for trial, they run the risk of not getting their money back, according to The New York Times.

A Kankakee County judge ruled the provision to be unconstitutional in December, leaving the case to be decided by the state supreme court, ABC7 reported.

Opponents argued banning cash bail violates the state constitution through government overreach, and expressed fear the ban would free criminals into the streets, according to the outlet. Those in support of the provision argued cash bail targets minorities and the poor, keeping them in jail pre-trial because they may not be able to put up the money to remain free.

Pritzker celebrated the court’s decision in a Tuesday statement on Twitter.

“I’m pleased that the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act and the elimination of cash bail. We can now move forward with historic reform to ensure pre-trial detainment is determined by the danger an individual poses to the community instead of by their ability to pay their way out of jail,” the governor said.

“My thanks to Attorney General Raoul’s office and the many people who worked tirelessly over the last months to defend these important reforms,” he continued. “I look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly and our many other partners as we transition to a more equitable and just Illinois.”

Courts will now have two months to prepare for the bail rules that are set to go into effect, ABC7 reported. (RELATED: Illinois Supreme Court Presses Pause On Controversial Cash Bail Law Hours Before Taking Effect)

Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, who previously filed a lawsuit to overturn the SAFE-T Act, called the decision “disappointing,” according to the outlet.

“A few moments ago the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the Safe-T Act is constitutional and will take effect on September 18, 2023,” Rowe said. “While this ruling is disappointing and the Act terribly detrimental to public safety, we must abide by the decision and will continue to do our best to serve the people of Kankakee County.”

“Despite the defeat, I could not be more proud of all who fought the good fight,” he continued. “The people of Illinois deserve better than bail reform that is passed under cover of darkness at 4am when all the state was sleeping; they deserve to have a voice in any constitutional amendments thru the power of their vote; and they deserve to be governed by a government of, for and by the people – not by legislative or gubernatorial fiat. That was the essence of our lawsuit and we stand for those principles still today.”

Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) State Lodge President Chris Southwood condemned the decision, the outlet reported.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court confirms Illinois’ status as the state of lawlessness and disorder. The court ignored the pleas of nearly every prosecutor in the state of Illinois, Democrat and Republican, that the elimination of cash bail will put dangerous criminals back on the street, instead of keeping them in jail or forcing them to post cash bail as they await trial,” he said.

“Many of those offenders will commit crimes again within hours of their release,” Southwood’s statement continued. “And who will have to arrest those offenders again and again? The police officers whose jobs have been made immeasurably more difficult by all of the new anti-law enforcement measures that are in place. Today’s ruling is a slap in the face to those who enforce our laws and the people those laws are supposed to protect.”

Americans have questioned the elimination of cash bail as crime and murder rates spiked across the country.