INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion Superior Court met with the Bail Project this week and determined the new state law, House Enrolled Act 1300, “renders moot a charitable bond organization’s need for court support.”
Prior to this law being passed, the Marion Superior Court had suspended its support of the Bail Project citing its failure to provide quarterly reports in a timely manner. On Dec. 15, 2021, the court told the organization it needed to see specific data before deciding to continue “future collaboration.”
Prior to Dec. 15, 2021, support from the courts meant the court would not deduct any costs, such as fines, fees and restitution, when the bond was returned at the end of the case–unless the bond was forfeited or the defendant failed to appear. In turn, the Bail Project had to present quarterly reports to the Marion Superior Court detailing its efforts.
FOX59’s investigation found in the 2018 letter, the judge ordered quarterly updates from the Bail Project to the court. Presiding Judge Amy Jones said the program wasn’t providing updates regularly, and the last one the court received was the end of 2019 before receiving a report on Nov, 22 for all of 2020 and the first three quarters of 2021.
The Bail Project did catch up with its reporting in January, and submitted the required data to the courts in March. In a letter from the Court dated May 18, Jones said the Court began going through the findings on March 14 and the new law was signed on March 16.
Jones writes in the letter, “the new law effectively renders moot a charitable bond organization’s need for court support. The statute sets standards for determining a person’s eligibility for bond assistance as well as clear rules on the return of bond money to the organization less costs, fines, fees, representation costs and restitution. The Marion Superior Court will adhere to the requirements of the law.”
Robert Vane, Indiana spokesperson for the organization, sent FOX59 this statement Tuesday, “The Bail Project is very grateful for the cordial and constructive dialogue during this week’s meeting with the Marion County Superior Court. We will continue our vital work while our lawsuit against the state of Indiana proceeds.”
Meanwhile, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the Bail Project announced a lawsuit against the state over whether a newly enacted law is constitutional and targets the Bail Project.
The lawsuit argues HEA1300 violates The Bail Project’s First Amendment rights. HEA1300 puts restrictions on charitable bail organizations by restricting who it can pay bail for.
“The First Amendment allows us all to advocate for our positions and it’s commonly understood that one way of doing that is with money,” Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said. “The Supreme Court has told us that if you’re going to impinge on that right, limit that right, there must be very good reasons for doing so.”
Under the new law, which goes into effect on July 1, charitable organizations can only pay bail for an indigent person who is not charged with a crime of violence or a person charged with a felony who does not have a prior conviction for a crime of violence. They are not able to bail out more than three people in a 180-day period without a license.