Judge to determine what happens next with Illinois’ SAFE-T Act

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(The Center Square) – The state’s controversial SAFE-T Act is set to end cash bail for many crimes in Illinois Jan. 1. Tuesday, a Kankakee County judge heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the measure.

The case was a combined lawsuit involving over 60 state’s attorneys from around Illinois. Judge Thomas Cunningham was the presiding judge.

The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity Today, or SAFE-T, Act, was approved by the General Assembly in January 2021. It makes several changes to the criminal justice system in the state, including eliminating cash bail statewide, making it the first state to do so.

Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe argued the SAFE-T Act is unconstitutional because it violates the state’s single-subject law, which confines legislation to only one subject. In addition, he argued that the whole measure is invalid because a provision related to redistricting maps is included.

Darren Kinkead, who argued on behalf of the state, claimed the measure does not violate any single-subject laws because the redistricting is about prisoners and would be included as a part of the criminal justice system.

Rowe also said the SAFE-T Act is a product of “legal logrolling,” a practice he said adds unpopular provisions into a measure with popular provisions. Rowe also said the state tried to sneak the bill past the legislature by presenting it at 3 in the morning.

Final arguments focused on the elimination of cash bail in Illinois.

Rowe claimed that the constitution gives judges the power to enforce monetary bail. He said the state is violating the constitution by getting rid of that power.

Rowe said that when reviewing the trailer bill that passed earlier this month after November’s midterm election, it shows that proponents were dishonest about the contents of the measure heading into the November election. The trailer bill amended various provisions of the original measure, including specifying for which crimes people can be held for pretrial.

“They said [Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow] is a fearmongerer, that [Kankakee County Sherriff Mike Downey] is a fearmongerer, that I am a fearmongerer,” Rowe argued in court. “We were telling the truth, and how does the court know that? Because in these 300 pages they just passed in the trailer bill, they fixed all of that. That’s how they won their election, by lying.”

Glasgow, who sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker over the SAFE-T Act, sat alongside Rowe on Tuesday. Glasgow said he is pleased with how things played out.

“I felt the hearing went very well today. I think the judge took everything in, and now we just wait for his decision,” Glasgow told The Center Square.

The judge said he would render a decision in this case by Dec. 28, just days before no-cash bail takes effect. 

State

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December 20, 2022 at 09:09PM

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