CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — While judges and prosecutors are working to figure out plans after a Kankakee County judge ruled part of the Safe-T Act unconstitutional, law enforcement officials are navigating it as well.
Wednesday night, a circuit judge ruled that the elimination of cash bail is unconstitutional.
Even with the decision, many sheriffs across Central Illinois said they won’t see a change until the Supreme Court weighs in on the ruling.
Macon County and Coles County are two of the counties involved in the lawsuit consolidated in Kankakee County.
“It is unconstitutional to not bond people and make sure they come to court,” Jim Root, Macon County Sheriff, said. “If we were to not do that then we would be in violation of the Constitution. I don’t think anybody willfully wants to violate people’s rights.”
He said his department has been preparing for the Pre-Trial Fairness Act for three weeks. Now, that preparation includes looking at a ruling that declares the elimination of cash bail unconstitutional.
“This court ruling allows for some of those things that were taken away from the judiciary to allow them to continue doing what they’re doing,” Root added.
Kent Martin, Coles County Sheriff, said the provisions won’t impact the way they’re doing things until the Supreme Court weighs in.
He knows the information is all still fresh but understands that right now, there are no major changes on his end.
If the Supreme Court decides to drop the Kankakee County Judge’s ruling, he said his staff is ready to make a plan.
“I’d rather get prepared than not need to go forward with that than to just stop and be dead in the water,” Martin said.
He added that he’s had concerns the whole time, and felt going through the over 700-page Safe-T Act was rushed.
“There were some questions about what certain phrases in that Act meant and there really weren’t any good hard and fast answers,” Martin said.
Champaign County is not a part of the lawsuit, and Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said they’re moving forward as if it didn’t happen.
Root said he just wants to be involved.
“We want a seat at the table and we want our voices to be heard,” Root said.
The Illinois Sheriff’s Association represents sheriffs across the state. They had a seat at the table during the latest negotiations around the Safe-T Act. They shifted from opposing the law to being neutral on it. That’s after the latest amendment was passed at the beginning of December.