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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Windhorst: 'Last night's decision validated many of the arguments that I have made'

"Last night's decision validated many of the arguments that myself and others have been making over the last few years regarding the constitutionality of the Pre-Trial Fairness Act portion of the SAFE-T Act," Windhorst said. "I would also like to thank the bipartisan group of State’s Attorneys and sheriffs and came together that filed a lawsuit to bring this effort forward and to make last night’s decision possible. The court and its ruling made clear the ability of a court to set monetary bail is inherent in the judicial power of the courts and provided by the state constitution. That is something many of you here have heard us discuss over the last two years. In order for that inherent power of the court to be amended or taken away, it must be done through the proper process, which is amending the constitution rather than legislation."

"As the court made clear, bail is the middle ground to strike a balance between the defendant's right to potential release prior to trial as well as a requirement to the criminal justice system, to ensure the defendant’s presence at trial and for the protection of the public," Windhorst continued. "The SAFE-T Act as we have said limits judicial discretion by eliminating cash bail and this opinion makes that clear. So, we are here now with potential chaos that may ensue on January 1. We will have counties throughout the state who have a cash bail system and counties that will potentially not have the cash bail system."

According to NBC Chicago, that the Pretrial Fairness Act, a portion of the SAFE-T Act responsible for eliminating cash bail for multiple crimes, was found unconstitutional in late December by a Kankakee County Judge following a class-action lawsuit from multiple jurisdictions within the state. The decision meant that cash bail would remain legal in 65 counties, leading to questions from the public following the Illinois Attorney General's Office filing an appeal.

Furthermore, CBS 2 reported that the Illinois Supreme Court issued a ruling on Saturday putting the SAFE-T Act on an indefinite hold statewide hours before it was set to be put into law at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday. The Court found that the act would unfairly take bail discretion powers away from judges.

"Tomorrow was supposed to be absolute chaos at 26th and California with this new law taking effect, and I think the Illinois Supreme Court realized that in making this rather late decision today to stop that from happening tomorrow," said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller. "So, I think they were sitting around today thinking, 'How are we going to remedy this catastrophe?' And I'm going to use the word catastrophe if this went ahead."

Patrick Windhorst is a Metropolis resident who was first elected to serve in the Illinois House in 2018. His legislative experience includes serving on the Restorative Justice and Judiciary-Criminal Committees.

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