Changing state bail policy would take several years to happen

(photo supplied / Indiana Statehouse)
Network Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill to restructure how Indiana handles setting bail for accused criminals is being considered by state lawmakers.

The idea is to give courts more latitude in refusing bail for certain violent crimes.

Right now, in Indiana, only suspects accused of murder or treason can be denied bail.

As a constitutional amendment, the bail bill is a whole different can of worms than just your run-of-the-mill law that lawmakers want to see in place. This bill requires a long and sometimes tedious process in order to become law.

“Under our constitution, in order to make changes (to the constitution), the amendment has to pass two consecutively elected General Assemblies, and then go to the ballot to be approved by the voters,” said the bill’s author State Sen. Eric Koch. “It’s not easy to amend our constitution. It shouldn’t be easy to amend our constitution.”

With that understanding, it could take at least an additional two years for the bail bill to become law. It will need to pass the State Senate once senators are voted for again in 2025. The same will also need to happen for the Indiana House in 2025. If both chambers approve for a second time then Hoosiers can vote on it in the next election.

At its core, the bill’s premise is to protect Hoosiers from violent offenders who make bail and get out of jail.

“Public safety is something very top of mind in the public,” Koch said. “We hear it in our districts. We hear it from law enforcement.”

The bill will give further discretion to judges to deny bail on a case-by-case basis. Under Indiana law right now, bail can only be denied in cases of murder and treason. The bill being considered would not make it so a judge can deny bail for any case they deem appropriate.

It would also clarify that it is not a requirement for judges to deny bail in any criminal case.

The bill made it out of committee hearings from last week and will be considered before the full State Senate this week. If it passes the bill will head to the Indiana House for consideration by state representatives.