Breaking: Illinois Supreme Court approves elimination of cash bail effective September 18

In a 5-2 opinion released Tuesday morning, the court ordered the elimination of cash bail as approved by the legislature to take effect in 60 days, on September 18. A full copy of the court’s opinion is available below.

The state legislature’s sweeping criminal justice legislation passed in 2021, known as the SAFE-T Act, banned using cash deposits as a pre-trial release “surety” effective January 1, 2023. But dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs filed lawsuits challenging the law’s constitutionality. Those cases were combined into a single case heard in Kankakee County.

The court’s written opinion on Tuesday said Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunnington applied “uneven reasoning” in his December 28 ruling that found the elimination of cash bail to be unconstitutional.

Cunnington “ignored the plain language of the constitution,” the court wrote, pointing out that the state constitution “does not include the term ‘monetary'” when it says nearly all criminal defendants must be bailable by “sufficient sureties.”

“‘Sufficient sureties’ is not limited to sufficient monetary sureties,” the Supreme Court wrote.

The court also found that the current state Constitution “was largely identical to the original 1818 Constitution,” a time when “monetary bail was all but unknown.”

Hours before cash bail was to be eliminated on January 1, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the law until it could review an appeal of Cunnington’s decision.

In its ruling Tuesday, the court said its stay will expire in 60 days, on September 18.

“On that date, the circuit courts are directed to conduct hearings consistent with” the Pretrial Fairness Act, the court concluded.

Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis delivered the court’s judgment. She was joined by Justices P. Scott Neville Jr, Joy Cunningham, Elizabeth Rochford, and Mary Kay O’Brien.

Justices Lisa Holder White and David Overstreet, the court’s only Republicans, dissented.

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