File Photo – Illinois Supreme Court | Photo: Illinois Courts

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled the end of cash bail in the SAFE-T Act is constitutional and will go into effect in September.

The court, in a 5-2 ruling, announced its opinion Tuesday morning in the case of Rowe v. Raoul where state attorneys from across the state brought legal action against the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act.

The state’s supreme court reversed a ruling from Kankakee County that held certain provisions of the SAFE-T Act violated the bail clause, the crime victims’ rights clause and the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution.

The criminal justice reform measure narrowly passed in early 2021 and has been modified several times since.

One component on hold because of the legal challenge includes the removal of cash bonds statewide, which county prosecutors say is a way they can assure criminal defendants show up for trial.

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Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe led the challenge when the case was heard by the Illinois Supreme Court in March.

“And for the sheriff, the sheriff has to ensure effectively the safety of every law enforcement officer under his charge,” Rowe said.

“This act requires them to serve for instance notice to appear and then a warrant on two occasions. We’ve now doubled the number of instances where law enforcement is going to have to come into contact with perhaps a fugitive or a very dangerous individual,” Rowe added.

Supporters of ending cash bail argue such policies allow wealthy people to buy their way out of jail while those of lesser means languish behind bars pending trial.

Following Tuesday morning’s ruling, Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement he is “pleased” with the court’s decision.

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“We can now move forward with historic reform to ensure pre-trial detainment is determined by the danger an individual poses to the community instead of by their ability to pay their way out of jail,” Pritzker said.

“My thanks to Attorney General Raoul’s office and the many people who worked tirelessly over the last months to defend these important reforms. I look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly and our many other partners as we transition to a more equitable and just Illinois,” the governor added.

Pritzker in December signed amendments to the law that clarified criminal defendants could be held pretrial for serious crimes and clarified that law enforcement can arrest someone who is trespassing, but only after first issuing a citation.

Pritzker argued in March that the policy makes things more safe and fair.

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“Keeping violent criminals in jail, not allowing them to have bail, but taking nonviolent criminals and saying that there’s no reason for us to have pay for you to sit in jail when you can’t afford the few hundred dollars to get out of jail,” Pritzker said.

The Illinois Supreme Court said their stay of the no-cash bail provision, which they issued in December, will be lifted on September 18, ending cash bail in Illinois.

Lake and McHenry County Scanner and The Center Square both contributed to this story.