Kankakee County judge rules portion of SAFE-T Act unconstitutional

Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 7:30 AM CST
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KANKAKEE COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - A Kankakee County judge throws a wrench in the implementation of the SAFE-T Act, deeming the portion that eliminates cash bail unconstitutional. Sixty-five Illinois counties, including Winnebago, Boone, Ogle and Stephenson, have sued over the law set to take effect January 1.

Judge Thomas Cunnington made the ruling the night of Dec. 28, siding with Kankakee County State’s Attorney James Rowe and County Sheriff Michael Downey.

Lawmakers and leaders throughout the state are already sounding off about the decision. Republican Representative Tony McCombie said in part, “Many provisions within the act put victims, law enforcement and communities throughout Illinois at-risk for disastrous outcomes. I am grateful the courts have ruled on the side of common-sense and am hopeful that any appeal will be upheld to protect Illinois families and the most vulnerable throughout the state.”

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley says we’re in a “wait and see” situation here in the Stateline.

“These are complex arguments, you have a high burden to prove that a law is unconstitutional, and like I said it’s difficult to prove what the supreme court is gonna do,” he said.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana says portions of the act, like implementing body cameras, will take effect January 1st. Caruana feels relieved cash bail is being looked into because he thinks it could potentially put the community at risk.

On the other side of the argument, the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice released a statement saying, “This disappointing ruling is as political as the frivolous lawsuits that spurred it. We anticipate that this poorly reasoned decision will be swiftly corrected by the Illinois Supreme Court.”

Representative Dave Vella, who supported the bill says this is a speedbump, but the road isn’t closed.

“I am confident at least from my legal perspective that the Supreme Court will uphold this as constitutional and we will get to no cash bail,” he told 23 News.

The 37 counties that have not challenged the law are not affected by this decision and can still implement the SAFE-T Act on January 1.

The state has appealed the decision, and the case will now go to the Illinois Supreme Court.