The Illinois Supreme Court Cash Bail Ruling, Explained

A historic ruling by the state supreme court affirms that safety and freedom are interconnected.

Under a groundbreaking court decision issued this week, Illinois will be the first state to eliminate cash bail. The state supreme court upheld the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act, which removes cash bail and sets forth procedures judges must follow to impose pretrial detention. Here’s what you need to understand about this decision and its implications.

What the Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act Does

The Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act not only eliminates cash bail but also ensures that everyone is eligible for pretrial release. The government must prove the need for detention.

Why Was There a Lawsuit?

Despite widespread support for this law, including from victims’ rights advocates, several law enforcement officials filed lawsuits. These were consolidated in a small county, with three main claims reaching the Illinois Supreme Court: that eliminating cash bail violates the right to bail, infringes on crime victims’ rights, and breaches the separation of powers under Illinois law.

The Court’s Decision

The Illinois Supreme Court dismissed all these claims, stating:

  • “Bail” doesn’t require money. Courts have numerous ways to ensure court appearances and public safety without financial conditions.
  • Abolishing cash bail doesn’t harm victims. Judges must consider safety risks posed by release and notify victims of relevant proceedings under the new law.
  • Eliminating cash bail is within legislative power. While judges apply laws in individual cases, the legislature is responsible for altering the legal framework, such as removing cash bail.

This ruling counters the false claims about cash bail. The abolition of cash bail enhances public safety by allowing individuals to return to their communities and families instead of being detained simply because they cannot afford bail. Stability from being able to go home, care for families, and continue with work or school makes communities safer and stronger.

What Happens Next?

The law took effect on September 18. Those currently jailed under a cash bail order will receive a release hearing under the new law, making Illinois the first state to adopt a pretrial system that never requires payment for release.

Other states should adopt similar measures to abolish cash bail and reduce pretrial detention. The increasing use of cash bail over the past three decades has led to a significant rise in pretrial detention, contributing to the United States’ status as the world’s leading incarcerator. This practice has not made communities safer but has subjected many to the dangers of jail and unequal justice. Reversing this trend by releasing more people pretrial has been successful in various jurisdictions. These examples demonstrate that safety and freedom are closely linked.

Call The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg For a Free Consultation

If you or someone you know needs experienced criminal defense representation, contact The Law Offices of David L. Freidberg. Our dedicated team offers a free consultation 24/7 at (312) 560-7100 or toll-free at (800) 803-1442. We proudly serve clients throughout Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Will County, and Lake County in Illinois. Let us help protect your rights and secure your future.

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