YORKVILLE – Warning of “horrendous unintended consequences,” Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis told the Kendall County Board he will file a lawsuit against the state of Illinois in an effort to force changes to the cashless bail system scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2023.
“This is something you should be very concerned about,” Weis told board members at their regular meeting on Sept. 20. “This is not a Republican or Democratic thing. This is not about politics. This is something that needs to be addressed.”
Weis said the lawsuit will be filed in Kendall County Circuit Court and will name Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly.
The suit is expected to be consolidated with a growing number of actions filed by county prosecutors, including those in Will, McHenry and Kankakee counties, Weis said.
“It’s not something state’s attorneys want to do,” Weis said. “We’re asking legislators to fix it. That’s the best scenario.”
Under the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, Equality-Today Act, police will not be allowed to detain persons arrested for certain offenses, such as aggravated battery or fleeing and eluding a police officer, Weis said.
For other offenses, including first degree murder, police and prosecutors must convince a judge that the offender constitutes a continuing threat.
“There must be a threat to a specific, identifiable individual,” Weis said. He explained that if a person killed his or her spouse and there was no one else deemed to be at risk, the murderer could not be detained.
“The law will be taking away the ability of judges to hold someone who should be held,” Weis said.
Moreover, the SAFE-T Act makes it more difficult for authorities to ensure that a person charged with a crime shows up in court, Weis said.
The county sheriff’s office would be required to present the accused with a document called “rules to show cause” if the offender fails to appear in court. But first, deputies would need to find the individual, Weis said.
The requirement will simply add another layer to an already complex justice system, Weis said.
The result will be more repeat offenders, Weis said.
While Weis said he supports many of the reforms included in the SAFE-T Act, he said the cashless bail system needs to be revisited by lawmakers.
Judges need the discretion to determine whether someone charged with a crime is held in jail, Weis said.
Legislative action would be preferable, but failing that the lawsuit is necessary, Weis said.
“The best solution is for the General Assembly to fix it,” Weis said. “This (the lawsuit ) is the next course of action.”
Weis, a Republican, emphasized that the lawsuit is not about politics.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, one of the most vocal critics of the cashless bail law and who has already filed suit against the state, is a Democrat.
Glasgow said in a broadcast interview that half the prisoners in the Will County jail will have to be released when the law takes effect.
Weis said after the county board meeting that hearings will need to take place for some prisoners now held in the Kendall County jail to determine if they must be released.