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The Illinois Supreme Court has halted provisions of a new law that would eliminate cash bail for criminal defendants, issuing a stay hours before the new policies were set to take effect Sunday.

The high court said in Saturday’s order that the stay was needed to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois” as the court prepares to hear arguments on the matter.

The order said the court would coordinate an “expedited process” for an appeal the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed Friday with the court of a local judge’s ruling, which found that eliminating cash bail for criminal defendants is unconstitutional.

Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly had pushed for eliminating the posting of a cash bond — a practice long used to ensure that people accused of crimes appear at trial. Opponents of requiring bail contend that it results in the poor and innocent sitting in jail awaiting their day in court while the wealthy and guilty go free.

Republicans, meanwhile, said they fear that eliminating cash bail risks potentially releasing dangerous criminals.

In November, Democrats sought to appease that criticism by adding numerous offenses to a list of crimes that qualify a defendant to remain jailed while awaiting trial.

Kankakee County Circuit Judge Thomas Cunnington ruled Wednesday that the General Assembly had violated the constitution’s separation of powers clause by eliminating cash bail in the so-called SAFE-T Act criminal justice overhaul. He said the issue of bail should be left to the judiciary.

Prosecutors and sheriffs from 64 Illinois counties had filed a lawsuit challenging the bail provision, called the Pretrial Fairness Act, although Cunnington’s ruling did not include the injunction they had sought.

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