Illinois will become the first state in the country to completely abolish cash bail.
The move comes after months of litigation involving prosecutors across the state challenging the law.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has pushed for the elimination of cash bail, calling it “a monumental milestone toward achieving equal justice.”
“What this is seeking to address is if you’re a threat to the public, no matter how much access to cash you have, you should be detained if you are a threat,” Foxx said.
Foxx added that there are people sitting in jail with nonviolent offenses who are waiting for trial simply because they don’t have the financial means to make bail.
The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the law Tuesday in a 5-2 ruling, with Republican justices dissenting. It found that the elimination of cash bail is constitutional, overturning a lower court ruling that had put the law on hold from its initial Jan. 1 start day.
Now, the law will take effect statewide beginning Sept. 18.
“Our constitution creates a balance between the individual rights of defendants and the individual rights of crime victims,” the majority of the court wrote in its ruling. “The act’s pretrial release provisions set forth procedures commensurate with that balance. For the reasons that we have stated, we reverse the circuit court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.”
Reform advocates have pushed for cash bail’s abolishment saying that it unfairly punished poor defendants who stay incarcerated pre-trail because they cannot afford to pay their set bail amount.
Under the current system, when someone is arrested for a crime, they appear before a judge who decides if that person must remain in jail or if they can be released from jail pre-trial.
And under the Pretrial Fairness Act, which the elimination of cash bails falls under, that will no longer be the case.
Those arrested for certain crimes — including first- and second-degree murder, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual assault, robbery and burglary “where this is use of force against another person,” residential burglary, home invasion and vehicular invasion — can still be denied pretrial release.
Now, judges will look at the nature of the defense and if it falls under whether someone could be held, Foxx said. Then a hearing will be held with providing specific findings as to why that person is a threat and a judge would then make a determination on the record as to why that person is a threat to public safety, she added.
“We’ve been preparing for this for 18 months since that bill was signed,” Foxx said.
In his dissent, Justice David Overstreet, wrote in part: “The people of Illinois exercised their ultimate sovereign power in 2014 when they vested crime victims with constitutionally protected rights. They did so by amending the bill of rights in our state constitution, setting out specific enumerated rights to be enjoyed by all crime victims in this state. Those enumerated rights include the explicitly defined right to have their safety and the safety of their families considered by the courts in ‘denying or fixing the amount of bail.’”
Foxx said this new system will give victims the opportunity to say a person is a threat when determining whether or not they’ll be detained.
“I think we’re telling victims that absolutely their safety is paramount and someone’s access to cash shouldn’t determine whether or not they’re going to be at risk of harm,” Foxx said.