SAFE-T Act: Illinois Supreme Court hears arguments over elimination of cash bail

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 5:46 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Controversy bubbles up before the Illinois Supreme Court Tuesday, in a case that challenges the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act, which could eliminate cash bail in Illinois.

The contentious case comes after a Kankakee judge sided with a handful of state’s attorneys across Illinois. They sued, over the act’s elimination of cash bail, saying the actual wording leaves too much room for interpretation. Now, after months of debate, the SAFE-T Act’s fate sits with the Illinois Supreme Court.

“It’s going to determine the nature of judicial, police and court procedures for the next set of years,” said Rockford University Professor Bob Evans. “These are going to be some difficult questions for the court to address.”

Oral arguments about whether the act’s cash bail provision is constitutional is the main focus. Rockford University Professor Bob Evans believes the judges’ ultimate decision, comes down to a few factors.

“The law has to be consistent and understood by people so that they can regulate their behavior,” said Evans. “So the two objections would seem to me before the court, perhaps a separation of powers issue, and what’s called the due process.”

Evans says another gray area up for debate is whether the act infringes on a judge’s power to decide when to use cash bail.

“The law seems to be not clearly an absolutely constitutional, but it’s also not clearly and absolutely unconstitutional,” said Evans. While Evans believes it’s a toss up, other community leaders think the law is quite clear.

“The biggest problem of money bond, is the way that wealth is extracted from our poorest communities,” said Rockford Urban Ministries Director Violet Johnicker.

Johnicker says cash bail unjustly punishes those who are struggling to make ends meet. But Senator Dave Syverson thinks it’s as simple as being a law-abiding citizen.

“There’s going to be a large number of people, that aren’t going to show up for court,” said Syverson. “There’s no incentive to show up for court, because there’s no bond.”

Evans says whatever the decision, it will be one for the history books.

“It’s what lawyers call a landmark decision, that is what it will be,” said Evans.

There’s no word yet on when the decision will come, however experts say it could take several weeks.