Map of Illinois counties that have contested the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, that was set to go into effect Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, making Illinois the first cashless bail state.

CHICAGO | The Pretrial Fairness Act, the portion of the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act that eliminates cash bail, was set to begin on Jan. 1, but a last-minute order by the Illinois Supreme Court put the brakes on the critical measure just hours before it was set to go into effect.

The emergency motion for supervisory order means that the court will decide later what should happen, although there’s no date yet when justices will hear appeals. However, Governor J.B. Pritzker has said he is confident the Act will be found to be constitutional.

Pritzker had signed into law revisions to the controversial criminal justice package last month after the General Assembly passed clarifications. “Advocates and lawmakers came together and put in hours of work to strengthen and clarify this law, uphold our commitment to equity, and keep people safe,” the Governor said in a statement about the signing.

Changes approved by Illinois lawmakers on the final day of their fall veto session clarified court authority in:

  • Controlling electronic monitoring and escape
  • Outline specific guidelines for trespassing violations
  • Create a grant program to aid public defenders with increased caseloads

However, it didn’t go far enough for critics, including many law-enforcement officials who deemed the move a danger to public safety.

Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunningham deemed the elimination of cash bail unconstitutional last week following a class-action lawsuit from several jurisdictions in the state. Cunningham ruled the SAFE-T Act violated the separation of powers and the Victims’ Rights Act.

Illinois counties that have challenged the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, also known as SAFE-T Act, are indicated in purple. Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunningham, issued a ruling striking down portions of the act pertaining to cash bail that was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023 | Chicago Reporter Map Illustration.

Still, other provisions did go into effect on Sunday, including limiting when defendants can be deemed flight risks, and allowing defendants under electronic monitoring to leave home for 48 hours before they can be charged with escape.

The SAFE-T Act would have made Illinois the first state to eliminate cash bail, allowing some alleged criminals to be released on a promise to appear in court.

Cover Photo by RODNAE Productions

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