Kendall State’s Attorney and Sheriff file lawsuit challenging Illinois cashless bail law

Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis speaks to the Kendall County Board on Sept. 20, 2022.

YORKVILLE – Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis and Sheriff Dwight Baird are challenging the constitutionality of the state’s cashless bail law set to take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The county’s two top law enforcement officers filed a lawsuit the afternoon of Sept. 23 in Kendall County Circuit Court, naming Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Governor JB Pritzker as defendants.

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.

For other offenses, including first degree murder, police and prosecutors must show a judge that the offender constitutes a continuing threat to a specific, identifiable individual.

Both Weis and Baird have been warning for months that the cashless bail system will result in more repeat offenders, take away the discretion of judges to hold someone charged with a crime and make it more difficult to ensure that a defendant shows up in court.

The sweeping SAFE-T Act covers more than 750 pages and includes a variety of policing and judicial reforms, but it is the cashless bail system that has produced dire warnings from law enforcement officials.

Under the Illinois Constitution, only appropriations bills are exempt from a requirement that a piece of legislation must be confined to a single subject.

“A public act that violates the single subject rule is not severable,” the legal complaint charges. “Rather, the entire public act is unconstitutional, and, thus, void.”

The SAFE-T Act addresses 265 separate statutes and touches on at least six different subjects, including policing and criminal law, labor and employment law and expanded whistleblower protections, according to the court filing.

The complaint further alleges that the cashless bail system violates protections for crime victims included in the state constitution.

The lawsuit 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.

In the complaint, Weis and Baird seek a declaratory judgement and injunctive relief, meaning a ruling declaring the SAFE-T Act null and void, as well as an order preventing the defendants from implementing and enforcing the act.

The filing was accepted by Kendall County Circuit Court Clerk Matthew Prochaska. A case management hearing for the court filing will be held on Dec. 22.

In a presentation to the Kendall County Board on Sept. 20, Weis outlined his plans for filing the lawsuit, while expressing hope that the Illinois General Assembly will revisit and amend the legislation.

“It’s not something state’s attorneys want to do,” Weis told the board. “We’re asking legislators to fix it. That’s the best scenario.”

Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird outlines his plan for scaling back operations at the county jail during a meeting of the Kendall County Board on Aug. 11, 2022. (Mark Foster --