Illinois SAFE-T Act under fire in court, where opponents say it violates state Constitution

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Illinois SAFE-T Act comes under fire in court
The Kankakee County State's Attorney argued that the Safe-T Act violates the Illinois Constitution in many ways, including eliminating cash bail.

KANKAKEE, Ill. (WLS) -- The controversial Safe-T Act came under fire in court on Tuesday. The law, which reforms Illinois's criminal justice system and eliminates cash bail as of January 1st, is facing a constitutional challenge brought by law enforcement in more than five dozen counties.

The Kankakee County State's Attorney argued that the Safe-T Act violates the state constitution in half a dozen ways, including eliminating cash bail, and that it must be struck down.

"This is not about the merits of the law, this is purely about the constitutionality," Kankakee County State's Attorney Jim Rowe said.

Rowe highlighted one of the new changes on detainment quietly passed by the legislature after the election.

RELATED: Illinois SAFE-T Act 2023: Lawmakers pass revised version of controversial bill about cash bail

"You've got to let people out, everyone out after 90 days, which they double down on in their last 300 pages. You see the 90-day provision is crucial here," Rowe told the judge.

Rowe argued in a case that consolidates 65 lawsuits challenging the Safe-T Act. Waving a copy of the 765-page law, he said it was rushed through the legislature by Democrats, and by eliminating cash bail it takes away judicial options for detaining criminals.

"The legislature again just put a hand on your gavel, they've exercised their discretion for you," Rowe said. "They've substituted their own discretion for you. Victims be damned. The constitution be damned."

"Mr. Rowe delivered a very powerful opening statement and I can tell quite clearly that he thinks that the state is a very bad law, a very bad policy. But what I didn't hear a lot about was about the Constitution," said Darren Kinkead, an attorney with the Illinois Attorney General's Office countered.

Kinkead then proceeded to dissect the plaintiff's argument one by one, arguing it's not up to the judge to declare the law void now.

"I've identified some circumstances where there might be questions about the Constitution, (it) does not mean it's your job to decide now rather those questions can be decided when they actually arrive in a real criminal case," Kinkead argued.

Judge Thomas Cunnington said he would take this case under advisement, calling this a monumental decision. He said he hopes to issue a ruling by December 28. The new provisions of the Safe-T Act go into effect January 1.