Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to eliminate cash bail.

The Illinois Supreme Court today upheld the state law ending cash bail, also known as the SAFE-T Act. The law will take effect on Sept. 18, giving local authorities two months to prepare for the changes. 

Based on the 5-2 decision, defendants will no longer be able to pay their way out of jail regardless of alleged crimes. Under the new law, judges will determine pretrial detention based on the risk and danger someone poses to the community. The Safe-T Act was praised by civil rights groups and victim advocacy organizations because the Act prioritizes community safety over wealth. 

“The Supreme Court upheld the legislature’s promise to create a more equitable and fair criminal justice system — a system that can now better protect victims and will no longer allow violent offenders to buy their way out of jail,” Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said.

“This decision is a win for the people of this state, but also for our democracy. As duly elected representatives, we have the privilege and responsibility of creating policy that reflects our values as Illinoisans. Our state’s highest court rightfully ruled that frivolous lawsuits cannot and will not stop the legislative process.”

“The court’s decision culminates a long and challenging journey toward fundamental fairness in our legal system that would ensure the accused stay behind bars because they are dangerous, not because they lack dollars in their pockets,” Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said. “The unjust foundations of our society were not built quickly, and they will not be dismantled with ease. But we have taken a great step forward today, and I look forward to the road ahead.  With the state’s high court having found the SAFE-T Act constitutional, I look forward to this landmark law being implemented fully and fairly throughout the state of Illinois.”

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