Republicans push constitutional amendment to allow judges to withhold bail for many more defendants
Some Indiana Republicans want to change the state constitution to allow judges to withhold bail entirely for a lot more people.
The current constitution requires judges to offer bail except when a person is charged with murder or treason.
A proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 1, would expand that to allow bail to be withheld for any crime – as long as the person is a “substantial risk to the public.”
Courtney Curtis is the assistant executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. She said judges should have the freedom to make individual decisions about individual defendants.
“If you limit it to a certain number of crimes, then you run the risk of not including folks that you’d want to include and including some folks that you’d rather not,” Curtis said.
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Curtis said there's been a larger bail reform movement in Indiana that needs to be balanced.
Bernice Corley, Indiana Public Defender Council executive director, said the proposed expansion would widen existing disparities in the system. She said many people who can’t afford an attorney don’t have a lawyer at their initial hearing.
“Frightening to think of … there is no nexus between charge level and losing your freedom,” Corley said.
A Senate committee approved the proposed amendment Tuesday. But even if the legislature approves it this year, lawmakers will have to approve it again in 2025 or 2026 before it goes on the ballot for voters to approve.