Illinois state Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, speaks about the SAFE-T Act. | Photo: Greg Bishop / The Center Square

(The Center Square) – After lawmakers approved amendments to the SAFE-T Act that eliminates cash bail in Illinois, a lawsuit challenging the measure’s implementation has been delayed until later this month.

State lawmakers recently passed amendments to the sweeping criminal justice reform legislation that abolishes cash bail starting January 1.

The amendments add a slew of serious crimes people can be held on pending trial.

State Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, explained one change that state’s attorneys sought was what happens to defendants that were being held on cash bail once the new system is in effect. The latest amendments help clarify that.

“There certainly will not be any sort of purge-like event, in fact, quite the opposite,” Slaughter said. “We’re providing a very fair, legal process and protocol for the court system to handle this.”

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State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, raised a litany of concerns, saying the measure will still make communities less safe. He also said there are legal hurdles.

“The [Illinois Constitution] envisions a cash bail system under Article 1, section 9,” Windhorst said. “We should let the court rule on that provision before we start to do anything with implementing this act. That’s the responsible thing to do.”

The Illinois Constitution states, “All persons shall be bailable by sufficient sureties” but does not include any monetary constraints. Cash bail has traditionally been one surety option.

The SAFE-T Act redefines bail, raising questions about if not cash, what is sufficient surety for someone to satisfy the court’s terms for pretrial release.

Sources tell The Center Square the lawsuit dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs from both political parties have filed against the measure’s implementation continues.

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It is now expected to be heard on December 20 in Kankakee County instead of today as it was previously scheduled.

Amended briefs are due at the end of the week. A ruling is expected on December 28, just three days before the no-cash bail provision goes into effect.

Despite the amendments lawmakers approved, still at play in the challenge are the single subject rule pertaining to legislation being passed touching on more than one subject and the separation of powers argument where the legislative branch is encroaching on the judicial branch.

Slaughter addressed other changes lawmakers approved to the SAFE-T Act, including how trespassing will be handled.

“In cases where the individual is not posing a threat, we’re requiring that officers do submit a citation before the arrest,” Slaughter said.

Another change deals with who will be required to wear police body cameras. It will exclude supervisors and administrators.

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It’s “not intended to apply to administrative personnel and others not engaging in law enforcement encounters or activities,” Slaughter said.

The several hundred page amendment was recently sent to Governor JB Pritzker and he signed it into law on Tuesday.