Judge blocks Bail Project’s request to pause new law as case continues in court
A US judge has denied The Bail Project’s request for a preliminary injunction thawould halt a new law — which limits who charitable bail organizations can let out of jail — from being enforced starting July 1 as the group challenges the statute in court.
Judge James Hanlon in his decision said The Bail Project “has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits to justify a preliminary injunction,” for the new law, and denied the group’s request. The decision means the legislation will go into effect as planned Friday, rather than being paused until the ongoing lawsuit is resolved.
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The Bail Project filed the suit against the state in May after House Bill 1300 was signed, saying the law infringes on the organization’s constitutional rights. The new law prevents charitable bail groups from bailing out anyone charged with a violent crime in Indiana and anyone with a past conviction for a violent crime, then charged with any new felony.
Nonprofits, the law also holds, who bail out more than three people in a 180-day period would have to pay a $300 certification fee every two years under the legislation. Groups that receive grant funding from the state and local governments would be barred from bailing indigent people out of jail.
In its complaint, the Bail Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said the law violates the group’s First Amendment rights because the organization considers paying bail “expressive advocacy work.” The organization maintained the group exists to argue that cash bail is harmful and unnecessary.
The suit also contends the law raises an equal protection issue by only restricting who charitable groups can bail out, while both commercial bondsmen and an accused person’s family and friends can continue to pay bail for people implicated in violent crimes in the state.
Bail Project case ‘still alive’ says attorney for ACLU of Indiana
Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana’s legal director, said the court’s decision merely means the law will not pause from going into effect July 1 as the case continues in court.
“This case is still alive and the court will be considering the merits of our argument about the far-reaching first amendment and equal protection implications of the new law,” Falk said.
The law was proposed in response to growing violent crime in Indianapolis after instances in which people released on bail were later accused of committing violent acts. The Bail Project came under scrutiny following such reports.
An IndyStar investigation published earlier this year found times when The Bail Project was blamed for letting out people later accused of murder when the person had last been freed by a commercial bail agent or a friend.
Furthermore, IndyStar’s analysis of 225 murder cases in Marion County since The Bail Project’s inception in 2018 showed bond agents bailed out 10 people later accused of murder, compared with the group’s three people in that same timeframe.
Supporters of the law argued it will align the Bail Project with the commercial industry by requiring the group to register under the Department of Insurance. Bondsmen, they argued, have the ability to track down defendants accused of violent crimes who skip court dates.
Opponents have said it will unfairly impact lower-income people from getting out of jail as they await trial.
Contact Sarah Nelson at [email protected] or 317-503-7514.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana charitable bail law injunction denied in Bail Project case
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