Jo Daviess, Knox County State’s Attorneys suing over SAFE-T Act

Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 5:17 PM CDT
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JO DAVIESS AND KNOX CO., Ill. (KWQC) - Several state’s attorneys in Illinois have filed lawsuits against the controversial SAFE-T Act, Including those in Mercer, Knox and Jo Daviess Counties.

The Safety Accountability Fairness and Equity - Today Act was passed last year and it does several things. For instance, it outlines a decertification process for police and requires nearly all officers in the state to wear body cameras by 2025. Among the most controversial, the bill will end cash bail beginning January 1, 2023.

The omnibus nature of the SAFE-T Act has some feeling like the legislature is stepping on the judiciary’s toes.

Jo Daviess County State’s Attorney Chris Allendorf said cash bail is ingrained in the Illinois Constitution.

“You can read the Illinois Constitution, and find bond referenced in Article One, Section Eight,” Allendorf said. “Also in the crime victims, Bill of Rights, which was added to the Illinois Constitution only a few years ago. So this, this lawsuit is totally in good faith.”

On the federal level, Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin said it could violate the 14th Amendment.

“How this is implemented is going to be different in every county,” Karlin said. “If how you are affected by the statute depends solely on geography, that sets up every county for a very significant, equal protection argument under the United States Constitution.”

Meanwhile, Karlin agrees that cash bail should be eliminated, but he disagrees with the SAFE-T Act’s implementation. He said the way it is currently written, it restricts his office’s ability to get defendants treatment prior to their trial.

“We don’t have places that we can send defendants to immediately be put into inpatient treatment, or immediately get that drug treatment that they need,” Karlin said. “The SAFE-T Act eliminates my ability to use the jail in that tool. Admittedly, it’s a poor tool, but it is a tool nevertheless.”

While Karlin — a Democrat, and Allendorf — a Republican, sit on different sides of the aisle, Allendorf said this is not a political issue.

“This is a prime example of where party politics has nothing to do with it. This is bad policy, Allendorf said. “It will make the people of this state less safe. So no, we weren’t concerned about the timing (of) the election.”

In Rock Island County, State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal said in a statement that she’s regularly met with the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association about the issue.

“Our office is currently reviewing possible litigation in regards to the SAFE-T Act,” Villarreal wrote. “There have also been some productive meetings between our association and several legislators this week to work on amendments and changes prior to Jan 1st.”

The law was signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in February of last year. His office did not immediately respond to TV6′s request for comment about the lawsuits.