Illinois judge weighing challenge to law ending cash bail

December 21, 2022 GMT

KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois judge said he planned to rule by the end of this month on a lawsuit challenging the state’s landmark SAFE-T Act criminal justice overhaul that includes eliminating the setting of cash bail for those accused of crimes to be released from jail.

A Kankakee County judge heard arguments Tuesday in lawsuits brought by several prosecutors and sheriffs around the state against the measure pushed by Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly. The elimination of cash bail is set to take effect Jan. 1, which would end a practice that critics say penalizes the poor.

Kankakee County State’s Attorney James Rowe argued the law was too broad to meet so-called “single subject rule “of the Illinois Constitution. He said it also violated a constitutional provision that says “all persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties,” insisting that Illinois judges should be allowed to set cash bail.

“The legislature, again, has put their hands on your gavel,” Rowe told Judge Thomas Cunnington.

Darren Kinkead of the Illinois attorney general’s office argued that the “sufficient sureties” passage bestows a right on criminal defendants, not sheriffs and prosecutors.

“The real dispute here is a policy dispute, not a legal dispute,” Kinkead said.