Judge rules no-cash bail policy in Illinois unconstitutional

Crime

(NewsNation) — An Illinois judge has struck down portions of a state law that ended cash bail, delivering a win to prosecutors who argued the legislation would harm public safety.

Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunnington is expected to issue his ruling Thursday morning, but the Kankakee County state’s attorney praised the decision in a Facebook post Wednesday night. The Chicago Tribune also reported it had obtained a copy of the ruling ahead of its official release.

The elimination of cash bail was included in the SAFE-T Act, a sweeping criminal justice bill passed in early 2021. All other provisions of the bill will remain intact, the Tribune reported.

Cunnington ruled that Gov. J.B. Pritzker and lawmakers violated the separation of powers clause in the Illinois Constitution and subverted the will of voters, who should have had a right in amending the state’s Constitution.

“Had the Legislature wanted to change the provisions in the Constitution regarding eliminating monetary bail … they should have submitted the question on the ballot to the electorate at a general election,” Cunnington wrote in his ruling, according to the Kankakee County state’s attorney.

The judge’s ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by more than 60 state’s attorneys across Illinois. Opponents of the 764-page law argued eliminating cash bail would limit a judge’s ability to detain dangerous defendants while they await trial.

Earlier this year, legislators sought to appease concerns by amending the law to clarify certain crimes that would fall under the no-bail policy. It was set to take effect Sunday.

“Today’s ruling affirms that we are still a government of the people, and that the Constitutional protections afforded to the citizens of Illinois — most importantly the right to exercise our voice with our vote — are inalienable,” Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said in a statement.

The state is expected to appeal the ruling, the Tribune reported.

“The General Assembly and advocates worked to replace an antiquated criminal justice system with a system rooted in equity and fairness,” Pritzker said in a statement to the Tribune. “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.”

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