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Illinois Cash Bail Still In Effect As Supreme Court Ponders New Law

The fate of Illinois cash bail in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court. It could take weeks or longer before the court decides whether it was constitutional for lawmakers to have eliminated it under the SAFE-T Act. Bond court was supposed to be very different in the new year, but a lower court ruling created a wave of confusion about the status of the cash bail provision of the act, prompting the state supreme court to step in. Judges continued to set cash bail for defendants Monday, reports WLS-TV. A man caught with a gun over the weekend was ordered held on $50,000 bond; under the new law, he might have been freed. "Every day that we keep the money bail system in place, we keep an unjust system in place," said Sarah Staudt of Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts. "We have people who are sitting in jail right now, thousands and thousands of people across Illinois, who are held in custody solely because they don't have the money to pay their way out."

Advocates of eliminating cash bail are frustrated that a Kankakee County judge ruled on Dec. 28 that the cash bail elimination provision of the SAFE-T Act was unconstitutional. The ruling prompted the Illinois Supreme court to put implementation of the new law on hold on New Year's Eve, to prevent confusion in courthouses around the state. A former Illinois solicitor general suggests it could still take months for the court to decide if it was constitutional for lawmakers to eliminate cash bail. "They understand that staying a new and important law go from going into effect is significant, and that if that they're going to strike down the law or uphold the law either way that decision needs to be made relatively quickly," said Prof. Carolyn Shapiro of Chicago Kent College of Law. For now judges will continue to be able to order defendants held on bail. The Supreme Court will next set a schedule for briefs and potentially oral arguments..


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