Indiana sued over right to post bail

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(NewsNation) — A new law in Indiana, which would place restrictions on charities that bail people out of jail, has drawn a lawsuit from those who say the law will keep poor people stuck behind bars.

Supporters of Indiana HB 1300 say it is all about accountability, especially for organizations that have come under fire for people they have bailed out and who went on to commit more violent crimes.

Under the new law, which will take effect July 1, organizations that pay bail on behalf of people in jail must register with the state of Indiana, the accused must not be charged with a violent crime, they must not have a previous conviction for a violent crime and the organization cannot bail out more than three people in a span of 180 days without a license.

The Bail Project, which has bailed out more than 22,000 people nationwide, say the law will “significantly curtail” their ability to get people out of jail.

These are “people who … are … presumed innocent under the law and a judge has decided they are able to leave the jail before a trial if they pay the money,” said Twyla Carter, the national director of legal and policy at The Bail Project.

The Bail Project and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing the state of Indiana to block the law from going into affect, saying it violates their organizations’ First Amendment rights.

“It is a law that entrenches a double standard in Indiana,” Carter said. “It allows for relatives, friends, strangers, anyone really to be able to go to the jail and post bail for somebody and this law targets only the ability for a charitable bail organization to be able to do the exact same thing that anyone else would be able to do.”

Indians Attorney General Todd Rokita disagrees.

“Your rights are as good as your ability to practice them without impeding upon others’ rights and others’ safety and at the end of the day, The Bail Project threatens all of that,” Rokita said.

Republican State Rep. Peggy Mayfield, who wrote the bill seeking to restrict charitable bail organizations, declined an interview with NewsNation while the lawsuit was pending, but did send a written statement.

“Hoosiers who don’t present a safety risk to the public and haven’t been convicted of a crime, yet can’t afford bail to get out of jail before their court appearance, should be able to get assistance from charitable bail organizations,” her statement said. “But we must ensure all bail providers work under the same rules and enforcement in this highly regulated industry.”

The Bail Project came under scrutiny when a NewsNation affiliate station in Indianapolis reported that three people bailed out by the organization in Indiana committed violent crimes while out on bail.

“Those three people were all determined to be able to be released by a judge who made that decision, who then said that they had to post a certain dollar amount. We posted that dollar amount,” Carter said. “The other thing I would point out is while these cases are extremely tragic … they are extremely rare.”

Kenneth Falk, of the Indiana ACLU, said only 15% of clients bailed out by these charitable organizations end up doing additional jail time.

“Even if they are found guilty, these are people that without The Bail Project would have been in jail for months and months and months,” Falk said.

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