Supreme Court pauses SAFE-T Act’s elimination of cash bail across Illinois pending appeal

Several counties already were exempt from impact temporarily

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul

The much-debated cashless bail provision of the SAFE-T Act will not take effect anywhere in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2023, after a last-minute state Supreme Court order issued Saturday.

The controversial no-cash bail provision of the SAFE-T Act already had been put on hold in many counties based on a Kankakee County judge’s decision and other counties that won a court order this week as they sought to stop the implementation of the state legislation.

The Supreme Court ruling bars implementation of the act statewide, including those counties that welcomed it.

The court indicated it did not want to see a patchwork of court procedures around the state until it made a decision on the constitutionality of the SAFE-T Act.

The Supreme Court order delays the implementation of the act “in order to maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois.”

A Kankakee County judge on Wednesday ruled that the state Legislature went too far in the SAFE-T Act by prohibiting cash bail and interfering with the authority of county courts to administer justice. The ruling blocked the implementation of the no-cash bail provision in the nearly 60 counties, including Will County, that signed onto the lawsuit.

It did not apply to Cook County and other counties that did not contest the SAFE-T Act.

The Supreme Court ruling, however, delays the implementation of no-cash bail in all 102 Illinois counties.

The order was issued in response to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s appeal of the Kankakee County decision.

The Supreme Court order calls for “an expedited process for this appeal,” although it is not clear how long it will take for hearings and a final decision.

“As we have stated previously, my office filed an appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court because in this matter, only the Supreme Court’s final decision on the merits will be binding on all Illinois courts,” Raoul said in a written statement Saturday night. “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.”

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News