The Illinois Supreme Court put a controversial law that would eliminate cash bail for some crimes on hold.
The SAFE-T Act (Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act) was set to take effect at 12:01 am on New Year’s Day, but late Saturday afternoon the court ordered the stay to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures” while the justices prepare to take up the matter. Last Wednesday, a Kankakee County judge ruled that cashless bail was unconstitutional and the policy would not be implemented in the counties that sued to block the measure. Attorney General Kwame Raoul said he would appeal that decision.
“Had the SAFE-T Act gone into effect on January 1, 2023, while litigation is pending, the administration of justice in Illinois would have been uneven, thus harming the citizens of the state,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and Kane County State’s Attorney Jaime Mosser said in a joint statement.
The counties filed an emergency motion late Friday afternoon to suspend the law pending the resolution of current litigation.
“Only the Supreme Court’s final decision on the merits will be binding on all Illinois courts,” Raoul said in a statement. “It is 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, and I appreciate the court’s interest in expediting the appeal. We look forward to mounting a robust defense of the constitutionality of the law and ensuring that it goes into effect across the state.”
The high court has not set a date to hear the appeal.
Democratic state Sen. Elgie R. Sims, Jr., who sponsored the bill, said it is an avenue to “fundamentally change” the criminal justice system in Illinois, describing it as “a big, bold, complex, transformational agenda.”
According to NBC 5 Chicago, the SAFE-T Act was authored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and emerged after George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers in May 2020. It included reforms to law enforcement training, accountability, and the statewide elimination of monetary bail.
Conservatives and Republicans have criticized the law, citing the risks of potentially releasing dangerous criminals back into communities. GOP state Sen. John Curran said Republicans had been “frozen out of the process” and weren’t “allowed an opportunity to participate” in making revisions.
Leftist Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, one of many “reform-minded” prosecutors elected with the support of political action committees funded by George Soros, helped craft the law. She has accused other prosecutors who vocally opposed it of taking part in “a misinformation campaign.”