The state of Indiana is facing a lawsuit over a new law placing restrictions on charitable bail funds.
Among other provisions, the law would limit who can be bailed out by the charitable organizations, and attach a $300 certification fee to certain bail groups.
Ken Falk, legal director for the Indiana ACLU, pointed out the new law applies only to charitable bail funds, and not individual citizens or bail bond companies. The Indiana ACLU filed the suit on behalf of the Bail Project, a national nonprofit which helps post bail for folks in jail, and the only large bail fund in Indiana.
“Under Indiana law now, anyone can pay that bill,” Falk explained. “Except, there are limitations placed on one entity only, and that’s The Bail Project. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why that would be.”
Falk argued the new law violates the Bail Project’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law and their First Amendment right of “expressive advocacy.” Last year, news outlets and Republican lawmakers alleged the project was posting bail for people who later committed violent crimes, allegations largely debunked by an Indianapolis Star investigation.
The new law would bar charitable funds, but not for-profit companies, from posting bail for people charged with a violent crime or anyone who has a prior violent crime conviction and is charged with a felony.
Twyla Carter, national director of legal and policy for The Bail Project, said the number of people the project bails out who later go on to commit violent crimes is very small.
“Anytime you legislate around extreme cases, it can be problematic,” Carter noted. “We would just ask people to keep that in context and recognize the full body of our work.”
The Star investigation found, since December 2018, three people in Marion County previously bailed out by the nonprofit have since been accused of murder. According to its website, The Bail Project provided support and resources for more than 1,000 Hoosiers during the same time period.
While acknowledging lawmakers should not legislate based on a small minority of cases, Carter said she does not want to downplay the issue of violent crime.
“Certainly we don’t deny the tragedies that occurred, certainly those particular cases will work their way through the criminal-legal system just like any other case,” Carter pointed out. “But unfortunately what we saw then was the politicization of those particular stories.”
The law is tentatively set to go into effect in July, although Falk said the Indiana ACLU has filed for an injunction to block the policy while the case is litigated.