McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally filed a lawsuit Monday against state officials, alleging the SAFE-T Act violates the Illinois Constitution and is a “threat to public safety.”
The lawsuit was filed in the 22nd Judicial Circuit in McHenry County and it names Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Governor JB Pritzker as defendants.
Pritzker signed the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity Today (SAFE-T) Act into law in January 2021.
The new law will abolish cash bail in Illinois on January 1.
The suit alleges the SAFE-T act, also known as HB3653, violates Article 4, Section 8 of the Illinois Constitution which requires that bills “shall be confined to one subject.”
The suit also says that the legislation “unconstitutionally trenches upon the separate powers of the judiciary that is preeminent in the arena of bail and pretrial release,” which allegedly violates Article 2, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution.
The lawsuit cites a third alleged violation, Article 1, Section 8.1 of the Illinois Constitution, which gives crime victims several rights.
Kenneally called the enactment of HB 3653 a “political ambush” that is “dedicated to the well-being of one constituency – criminal defendants.”
“The entire process of enacting HB 3653 was plotted to mute to the maximum extent procedurally possible transparency, compromise, and any meaningful deliberation,” the suit said.
“To many in law enforcement and many Illinoisans, the sudden and unexpected enactment of HB 3653 was a political ambush.”
The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office says the legislation creates a system that is “wildly out of step” with expectations people have for the criminal justice system and is a “clear and present threat to public safety.”
The state’s attorney’s office said that current bail laws allow most indigent defendants to be released without paying bail.
“… bail is determined on a case-by-case basis and must be ‘considerate of the financial ability of the accused,’ and only a tiny percentage of low-class felony or misdemeanor, non-violent offenders are held because they cannot afford bail (usually because they have dismal criminal histories),” the office said in a statement.
The state’s attorney’s office also said that it is impossible for a single mother who steals diapers to be held pretrial for six months under current laws.
“This type of misinformation appealing to emotion, the ongoing campaign to smear law enforcement and prosecutors, and the sometimes-tragic way business is conducted in Springfield is what gave rise to HB 3653 in the first place.”
On Friday, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe filed similar lawsuits against state officials alleging violations of Illinois’ constitution.
Kenneally’s lawsuit asks the court to find the legislation in violation of the Illinois Constitution and to declare it null and void.
The suit also asks the court to order the state from implementing or enforcing the provisions of HB 3653.