Oral arguments begin Tuesday for challenge of SAFE-T Act


KANKAKEE COUNTY, Ill. (IRN) — Opening arguments are set to begin Tuesday in an Illinois courthouse over a lawsuit that calls the criminal justice package known as the SAFE-T Act unconstitutional.  

Dozens of state’s attorneys and law enforcement officials around Illinois filed lawsuits, which were combined and will be heard in Kankakee County. One of them was Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley.

“From a resource setting, we’re not even close to ready, putting aside some of the problems with some of the language of the law,” said Hanley during a news conference. “It will create unjust results, and it does not protect the public.”

The lawsuit revolves around whether the law aligns with the Illinois Constitution, both in its content and how it was passed by lawmakers.

The abolishment of cash bail Jan. 1 has been a major sticking point in the SAFE-T Act. Those taking part in the lawsuit have claimed in their briefs that the state constitution interprets bail to include a monetary amount that cannot be abolished altogether without running afoul of the constitution.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a bill which made changes to the legislation, including verbiage which widens the definition by which a criminal defendant could be kept in jail pretrial because they’re deemed to be dangerous. 

Will County Circuit Court Judge David Carlson said come Jan. 1 when cashless bail is abolished, his hands will be tied.

“It completely eviscerates the ability of a judge to administer justice,” said Carlson during a recent forum on the SAFE-T Act. “I don’t know what was going through people’s minds.”

Faith leaders and community organizations with the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice are now calling on state’s attorneys to drop their lawsuits challenging the law. 

“The foundation of the State’s Attorneys’ lawsuits are a bogus political stunt to try and compensate for the losses conservative candidates saw in November,” said Will Tanzman, executive Director of the People’s Lobby. “The people of Illinois have voted and they support these changes. Our state’s attorneys should do the same.”

DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin has been an outspoken critic of the SAFE-T Act.

“It is extremely concerning, it is extremely disturbing what is going to come January 1st,” said Berlin. 

By KEVIN BESSLER for the Illinois Radio Network

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