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Illinois High Court Upholds Cash Bail Ban

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state legislature did not violate the Illinois constitution when it voted to eliminate cash bail, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The ruling, making Illinois the first state in the nation to eliminate cash bail statewide, was released more than six months after the Pretrial Fairness Act was halted by the justices just hours before it was to go into effect on Jan. 1 in response to legal challenges. The high court said the law should now go into effect in September. In its ruling, the court said the state’s constitution “does not mandate that monetary bail is the only means to ensure criminal defendants appear for trials or the only means to protect the public. Our constitution creates a balance between the individual rights of defendants and the individual rights of crime victims. The Act’s pretrial release provisions set forth procedures commensurate with that balance.”

The bail system overhaul was one of the most controversial provisions of the widely scrutinized SAFE-T Act, a major bill that mandated wide-ranging reforms to policing, court proceedings and victims’ rights in the state. Other measures include requiring all police departments to equip officers with body-worn cameras by 2025, expanding services for victims of crimes and changing how people who are incarcerated are counted for redistricting maps. Supporters of the Pretrial Fairness Act said its provisions would simply remove cash bail as a condition that could be set by a judge when considering whether someone was likely to return to court for their hearings or posed a danger to the public. Despite a two-year ramp up before bail reform was to go into effect, opponents waited until late last year to mount a serious effort to overturn the law, as well as a political pressure campaign ahead of last year’s statewide elections. In the weeks before the election, opponents derided the SAFE-T Act as a “purge law” and claimed it would make the state — with a particular focus on Chicago — less safe by releasing more violent criminals to prey on the public. Democrats held off most challengers in what was expected to be a bruising midterm election for the party across the county and even expanded their majority on the state Supreme Court.


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