UPDATE: Peoria County ‘required’ to follow court ruling rendering bail reform, pre-trial release provision unconstitutional, says state’s attorney

Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos says her office will abide by the ruling and not implement the new bail reform
Peoria County Courthouse
Peoria County Courthouse(25 News)
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 6:40 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2022 at 10:44 AM CST
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UPDATE THURSDAY 10:38 A.M. - Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos says though her office did not participate in the ruling, they are required to follow it.

In a release, she said that when a statute is unconstitutional, the statute becomes invalid and has no force or effect on anyone.

“As a result, and until the Illinois Supreme Court provides further clarification, we will abide by this ruling and not implement the new bail reform,” she said. “This office remains committed to following the law and is hopeful the Supreme Court will bring finality to this topic in the near future.”

Last night, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Roe said in a release that the pre-trial provisions and bail reform will not go into effect in the 65 counties that were party to the lawsuit.

The other provision of the Safe-T Act, such as body cameras, training and more, were upheld.

UPDATE 11:30 P.M. - The Safe-T-Act, including elimination of cash bail, will go into effect New Year’s Day for counties including Peoria County that did not participate in the challenge.

Kankakee County Judge Thomas Cunnington late Wednesday found the courts, not the legislature, have the power to make decisions on pre-trial release, but the ruling impacts just the 65 counties that sued to get the Safe-T-Act overturned.

“The immediate net effect of this ruling is that the pre-trial release provisions and bail reform will not go into effect in the 65 counties that were party to the lawsuit,” said Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, who filed the initial legal challenge.

The 65 counties that participated include Tazewell, McLean, Woodford, Fulton, LaSalle, DeWitt, Ford, Logan and Sangamon.

Rowe released the following statement:

“Today’s ruling affirms that we are still a government of the people, and that the Constitutional protections afforded to the citizens of Illinois – most importantly the right to exercise our voice with our vote – are inalienable. The Act was a 765 page bill passed during a lame duck session under cover of darkness at 4:00a.m., affording legislators less than one hour to read it and vote on it, and denying the general public any opportunity to offer comment or input. It amended the State Constitution and eroded the constitutional protections of the Victim Rights Act, all while disenfranchising the people of their Constitutional right to vote on such reforms. The people of Illinois deserve better than that, and today’s verdict condemns the Act for exactly what it is: unconstitutional.”

Peoria, Champaign and Cook Counties were among those that did not participate in the legal challenge, so the pre-trial release and bail reform provisions will take effect Jan. 1

Gov. JB Pritzker says Judge Cunnington’s ruling will be appealed to the Democratic controlled Illinois Supreme Court.

UPDATE 10:30 P.M. - Gov. JB Pritzker released a statement expressing disappointment with the Kankakee County judge’s ruling finding the elimination of cash bail unconstitutional.

Pritzker also pledged an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

“Today’s ruling is a setback for the principles we fought to protect through the passage of the SAFE-T Act. The General Assembly and advocates worked to replace an antiquated criminal justice system with a system rooted in equity and fairness. We cannot and should not defend a system that fails to keep people safe by allowing those who are a threat to their community the ability to simply buy their way out of jail. I thank the Attorney General for his work on this case and look forward to the Illinois Supreme Court taking up the appeal as soon as possible.”

UPDATE 10 P.M. - A Kankakee County judge ruled late Wednesday night that the Illinois legislature did not have the authority eliminate cash bail in the criminal justice system.

Illinois was supposed to become the first state in the U.S. to eliminate cash bail on New Year’s Day, but Judge Thomas Cunnington stopped the Democratic-sponsored law from taking effect.

Judge Cunnington wrote the following:

“Because, as the Illinois Supreme Court has determined, the administration of the justice system is an inherent power of the courts upon which the legislature may not infringe and the setting of bail falls within that administrative power, the appropriateness of bail rests with the authority of the court and may not be determined by legislative fiat.”

The challenge to the Safe-T-Act was filed by the Kankakee County state’s attorney along with dozens of other prosecutors and law enforcement leaders statewide, including state’s attorneys from McLean, Tazewell and Knox Counties.

Cunnington’s decision can be appealed.

25 News Capitol Bureau Chief Mike Miletich noted Cunnington is a Republican. The Illinois Supreme Court, which will weigh in later, has five Democrats and two Republicans.

PEORIA (25 News Now) - A Kankakee County judge will decide Wednesday night on a legal challenge to the controversial SAFE-T Act, according to the Circuit Clerk.

The sweeping criminal justice law is supposed to go into effect January 1. It would make Illinois the first state in the country to abolish cash bail.

Judge Thomas Cunnington could delay the law from going into place. A lawsuit filed against Democratic state leaders by dozens of sheriff’s and state’s attorneys alleges the law is unconstitutional, in part because the state constitution guarantees the right to bail.

Locally, Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower is a part of the suit but acknowledges the law likely go into place one way or another. He says his office is preparing daily for the changes, which include new procedures for detaining people after an arrest.

“It’s just trying to get all of our ducks in a row and making sure everyone has the paperwork, the knowledge and the ability to be able to comply with the law,” Lower said. “There’s going to be some bumps and bruises. We’re going to make mistakes along the way, but we’re going to have to adapt.”

Lower pushed for changes to the original legislation, included in a recently passed trailer bill. He says the bill provided clarity on several of the issues raised by local law enforcement. For example, a person can be detained for trespassing after a citation is issued. Lower also mentioned that judges can take into account a person’s criminal history during a detention hearing. Currently detained people under the old system will be able to request a hearing for their case to be heard in the new system.

Supporters of the SAFE-T act argue it will be a fair, equitable system, that will stop people accused of low-level offenses from sitting in jail for months because they can’t afford bail.