Chicago Supreme Court Rules Ending Cash Bail is Constitutional

The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that one of the provisions of the SAFE-T Act that would end cash bail is constitutional. The decision will allow Illinois to become the first state in the country to end cash bail. Instead of cash bail, judges will have the ultimate discretion on whether or not an individual is released from prison prior to their case. 

Gov. Pritzker signed the SAFE-T Act into law the previous year. This one provision, whether or not to eliminate cash bail, was thwarted by the courts. The issue boils down to fairness. In many cases, an individual could be held in jail on charges that they could later defeat in court. However, if they could not afford to pay their bail, it acted as leverage for prosecutors to coerce a guilty plea out of them. In other words, they were held in jail until they pleaded guilty to the charges, and if they refused to plead guilty, they would remain in jail until a trial could be scheduled. This created an unfair situation for the poorest defendants who could not bond out of jail. 

The provision is known as The Pre-trial Fairness Act. It was among the most controversial aspects of the bill. The cash bail provision was set to go into effect on January 1 of this year. Several prosecutors and sheriffs, however, filed cases in an attempt to halt the act. The provision was thus suspended until the cases could be heard by another court. The case made it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court before the provision was passed in a 5-2 vote. 

Understanding the Pre-trial Fairness Act

Bail and bonds were initiated because the state had a vested interest in ensuring that the defendant appeared in court. The defendant posts a certain amount of money established by the courts and can get out of jail while their case is pending. Those who could not afford to post bail were stuck in jail while their case was pending. This made it easier for prosecutors to secure guilty pleas in criminal cases against the poor. Poor defendants who could not post bail were incentivized to plead guilty to charges in order to be released from jail. In this fashion, prosecutors could leverage guilty pleas from defendants who just wanted to go home but did not commit the crimes for which they were accused. In other words, the defendants would plead guilty just to get out of jail, regardless of the strength of the state’s case.

In most cases, the beneficiaries of the new legislation will have lesser charges filed against them. Judges are unlikely to release defendants accused of serious crimes like rape and murder. In those cases, defendants would be denied release by the judges the same way that they would have been under a cash bail system. The new system prevents prosecutors from leveraging guilty pleas in cases where the defendant cannot afford to pay bail. 

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

David Freidberg represents the interests of individuals who have been charged with serious crimes in Chicago. Call our office today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment, and we can begin preparing your defense immediately. 

Contact Information