Jul 18, 2023 - News

Illinois Supreme Court ruling sets state to be first to end cash bail

Illustration of the "No" symbol merged with jail cell bars.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a law eliminating cash bail for defendants in the state.

Why it matters: The Pretrial Fairness Act will overhaul how judges decide whether someone awaiting trial should be released from jail, removing what advocates have long called a "penalty for poverty."

Yes, but: Opponents worry that this could put more dangerous criminals back on the street.

  • During last year's election, Republicans painted Democrats and Gov. JB Pritzker as soft on crime for backing the legislation.

The big picture: Illinois is set to become the first state in the country to end cash bail.

Catch up quick: The Illinois General Assembly passed the measure in 2021 as part of the SAFE-T Act. It was delayed from going into effect earlier this year after county prosecutors challenged the law in court.

  • A lower court in Kankakee had ruled eliminating cash bail was unconstitutional, but the Illinois Supreme Court overturned that ruling.

What happened: In a 5-2 decision with the Republican judges dissenting, the court ruled that the state Legislature did not overstep its authority in ending cash bail.

  • The justices gave the courts 60 days to prepare for the new law, which means it will take effect Sept. 18.

What they're saying: Pritzker on Tuesday applauded the court's decision, saying the act will "ensure pretrial detainment is determined by the danger an individual poses to the community instead of by their ability to pay their way out of jail."

The other side: The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police said Tuesday's ruling "confirms Illinois' status as the state of lawlessness and disorder."

What we're watching: Republican leaders in the Senate are calling for a special session to reform cash bail, instead of eliminating it.

  • Both chambers of the General Assembly are run by Democrats, so it's unlikely that will happen.

Go deeper: Check out Monica's series on the Pretrial Fairness Act from last year.


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