(DailyVantage.com) – There’s been a long-standing debate on cashless bail, a process where the courts release those arrested without requiring them to pay a bond that they forfeit if they fail to return for their court date. Proponents of the idea believe the current system favors those who have money, allowing them to “buy” their way out of jail, while those who don’t have the funds remain behind bars for undetermined amounts of time for minor offenses before trial or conviction. However, the other side of the coin sees people who commit dangerous crimes, such as assault, back on the streets within hours, potentially causing more havoc. Now, a state court has weighed in on the matter.
Kankakee County Rules Against Cashless Bail
On Wednesday, December 28, Kankakee County, Illinois, Judge Thomas Cunnington ruled that cashless bail is unconstitutional, citing the need for a separation of powers in his 36-page decision. This provision, part of the SAFE-T Act, would have gone into effect as of January 1, 2023. The ruling resulted from a consolidated lawsuit after 65 sheriffs and district attorneys around the state filed to stop the cashless bail provision.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Judge Cunnington also ruled the move would not allow “courts to protect victims and their families,” a process that “ensure[s] victims’ safety, the defendant’s compliance with the terms of release, and the defendant’s appearance in court.”
Cunnington suggested it also “improperly attempted” to modify the state constitution, a measure he believes the constituents should decide in an election.
Those who filed the lawsuit celebrated the win, including McHenry County State Attorney Patrick Kenneally, who called it a “victory for the rule of law,” according to ABC7. Still, there’s another issue that the state will have to address in the meantime.
The main problem with the court’s decision is that it doesn’t eliminate cashless bail throughout the state, only in the counties where district attorneys and sheriffs filed lawsuits. Theoretically, out of the 102 counties, 38 will see the new measure go into effect, whereas the other 64 will remain on hold.
However, there’s another element of confusion. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul pointed out, “this judge did not enter an injunction,” meaning all counties could implement the SAFE-T Act, minus the one provision.
The state plans to appeal the matter to the Illinois Supreme Court, but some counties are asking for a stay of implementation until the ruling comes down.
The battle will likely continue to play out over the next few months.
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