After the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a statute that the state legislature passed back in 2021, Illinois will become the first state in the union to ban the use of cash bail.
It will go into effect on September 18 after 60 days. The state’s highest court reversed a lower court’s earlier decision that the law was unconstitutional by a vote of 5-2.
The SAFE-T ACT, a significant criminal justice reform bill signed into law by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker in early 2021, included the removal of cash bail as one of its key provisions. The bill’s provision banning cash bail was initially planned to go into effect on January 1st, 2023.
However, 64 counties’ sheriffs and prosecutors filed lawsuits asserting that the clause was unlawful. A Kankakee County court decided in their favor in December.
The state challenged the district judge’s decision, and as a result, the state Supreme Court suspended the bill while it looked into the appeal. In March, it heard arguments.
Illinois Supreme Court’s Ruling On Cash Bail
In her majority opinion, Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis argued that the Illinois state constitution strikes a balance between the rights of criminal defendants and the rights of crime victims rather than mandating that monetary bail be the only way to ensure that criminal defendants appear for court proceedings or the only way to protect the public.
The elimination of monetary bail, according to Justices David Overstreet and Lisa Holder White in their dissent, is a clear breach of our constitution’s bill of rights and, more specifically, the vested rights of crime victims.
Cash bail has drawn criticism for unfairly punishing impoverished defendants, who are frequently imprisoned for months or years prior to their trials while posing no threat to the public.