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Bail Project, ACLU sue Indiana over new bail restriction law

May 5, 2022 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Bail Project and the ACLU of Indiana have sued the state of Indiana, seeking to block a new state law that imposes strict limits on charities that pay bail for Hoosiers who can’t afford it.

The suit filed Wednesday in the Southern District of Indiana says the law violates The Bail Project’s First Amendment rights and rights under the equal protection clause, according to the complaint. The national nonprofit considers paying bail “expressive advocacy work,” maintaining in court filings that the group exists to argue against cash bail, which it deems is harmful and unnecessary.

“When we post bail, we’re essentially advocating before the courts, saying: ‘Let us show you that money was not necessary in the first place because this person will return, even though they have no financial obligation to us,’” Camilo Ramirez, the organization’s communications director, told The Indianapolis Star.

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Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, charitable bail organizations must register with the Indiana Department of Insurance and can only assist people charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies as long as the accused has never been previously convicted of a violent felony.

The Associated Press left a message seeking comment Thursday with the Department of Insurance, which is named in the lawsuit.

The law only restricts charitable groups from who they can bail out, however. Bond businesses, family and friends can continue to pay bail for people accused of violent crimes, which Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana’s Legal Director, said “singles out charitable bail organizations in Indiana.”

Supporters of the legislation argue the law would bring The Bail Project in-line with the commercial industry. Opponents have argued it will unfairly exempt poor Hoosiers from getting out of jail while awaiting trial.