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McLean County state’s attorney, sheriff sue to block the SAFE-T Act

McLean County Jail
Eric Stock
McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage.

McLean County State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds and Sheriff Jon Sandage are the latest law enforcement officials to go to court in an effort to stop a major criminal justice reform bill from being implemented next year.

They filed a lawsuit in McLean County civil court asks the court to declare the SAFE-T Act unconstitutional.

The SAFE-T Act, which the governor signed into law last year, will implement significant reforms, including the elimination of cash bail.

Erika Reynolds
Eric Stock
McLean County State's Attorney Erika Reynolds.

Reynolds and Sandage, both Republicans, said law enforcement officials want to help negotiate changes to the measure they claim will threaten public safety.

They argue a judge’s ability to hold a defendant based on a “high likelihood of willful flight” for an array of violent offenses is too narrowly defined under the law, and makes it unlikely those defendants would be detained. They cite aggravated assault with a firearm, aggravated drunk driving, concealment of a death and certain hate crimes as examples of offenses in which a state’s attorney could not petition the court to hold the defendant in custody prior to trial.

“What has become clear is that the SAFE-T Act is full of contradictions and ambiguities to the extent that implementation across the state is nearly impossible,” Reynolds and Sandage said Tuesday in a joint statement, adding they remain committed to “meaningful, responsible bail reform.”

The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. JB Pritzker, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, according to the statement from Reynolds and Sandage.

Sandage is retiring this year after two terms as McLean County sheriff. Deputy Matt Lane is running unopposed for sheriff in November. Reynolds was appointed state's attorney in September.

Pritzker has said the SAFE-T Act will reduce crime by not affording violent offenders the opportunity to post bail and be freed while awaiting trial. He's also said he’s open to considering some reforms.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.