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URBANA – Illinois’ new sweeping criminal-justice reform law, the SAFE-T Act, is now in effect – but without a key and controversial provision that eliminates cash bail.
The SAFE-T Act took effect on New Year’s Day, but a provision within it titled the Pretrial Fairness Act, which ends cash bail, was put on hold Saturday by a last-minute stay issued by the Illinois Supreme Court.
The high court issued the stay after Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunningham ruled last week that lawmakers exceeded their constitutional authority by abolishing cash bail.
The Supreme Court said the effective date of the Pretrial Fairness Act will be put on hold until Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s appeal of Cunningham’s ruling can be heard.
“In order to maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois, the effective date of the Pretrial Fairness Act is stayed pending the appeal and until further order of this court,” the order said.
It also stated that Raoul’s appeal will be expedited, but that could still mean its implementation is months away as his office and those involved in the suit challenging the act prepare briefs and argue the issues.
Meanwhile, bond court in Champaign County was set to go forward on New Year’s Day.
“I’m just frustrated. It is literally 5 o’clock on New Year’s Eve,” Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, a proponent of the act who worked hand-in-glove with the late Sen. Scott Bennett to help craft amendments to make it more palatable to prosecutors and law enforcement, said Saturday. “We were ready to move forward with the Pretrial Fairness Act, but we are also ready to hold off until the Supreme Court makes a final decision on the remaining issues.
“Thanks to my staff and the Public Defender’s Office and the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office corrections staff and our judiciary for working so hard to be ready to go,” Rietz added.
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