ACLU challenges Indiana bail law under First Amendment, equal protection
© WikiMedia ( Darylosswald)
ACLU challenges Indiana bail law under First Amendment, equal protection

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana Wednesday challenged a new Indiana bail law in US district court. The ACLU claims that the new law places unconstitutional limitations on charitable bail organizations’ ability to pay bail in violation of organizations’ First Amendment and equal protection rights.

The lawsuit references organizations like The Bail Project, a non-profit organization with which the ACLU of Indiana partners to provide cash bail to criminal defendants. The Bail Project advocates for an end to cash bail and its disproportionate impact on low-income defendants. The Bail Project operates nationwide and, to date, has assisted more than 1,000 Hoosiers with cash bail.

The Indiana legislature recently passed House Enrolled Act 1300 (HEA 1300) which the ACLU argues imposes severe limitations on charitable bail organizations, like The Bail Project. The bill defines charitable bail organizations and imposes limitations on the organizations’ ability to pay bail by requiring certification from the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Insurance.

In their lawsuit, the ACLU argues that HEA 1300 directly targets The Bail Project, because it is the only charitable bail organization in the state of Indiana which frequently pays cash bail for criminal defendants. The ACLU argues that by vesting sole authority in the commissioner, HEA 1300 severely limits The Bail Project’s ability to pay bail. Because paying bail is a part of The Bail Project’s expressive advocacy work, the ACLU claims HEA 1300 limitations violate The Bail Project’s First Amendment rights.

The ACLU also brings an equal protection claim against the law, claiming that charitable bail organizations face limitations that other persons paying cash bail do not face.

HEA 1300 is set to take effect July 1.