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Group plans to sue if Georgia governor signs bill to expand cash bail

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(The Center Square) — The ACLU of Georgia said it would sue the state if Gov. Brian Kemp signs into law a measure that expands the number of offenses for which suspects must “post bail or surety.”

State Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, introduced Senate Bill 63 in January 2023, but lawmakers did not advance the measure before last year’s session ended. However, both the state House and Senate signed off on the measure this year.

“Not only is SB 63 bad policy, it is illegal. It unconstitutionally criminalizes poverty and restricts conduct protected by the First Amendment, and the ACLU of Georgia will sue if the governor signs this bill into law,” Cory Isaacson, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. “We can’t allow the state to enact a system in which a person’s freedom is determined by the color of their skin and the amount of money in their wallet.”

Spokesmen for Kemp, a Republican, did not respond to a request for comment on the ACLU of Georgia’s announcement. However, Lt. Governor Burt Jones said the state wouldn’t kowtow to the threat of a lawsuit.

“I was thrilled to see Senate Bill 63 reach final passage this week, and I look forward to Governor Kemp signing it,” Jones, a Republican, said in a statement to The Center Square. “Georgia will not allow left-wing activists to thwart our efforts to protect Georgia families and businesses from violent criminals.”

In a statement, The Bail Project said the “reliance on cash bail doesn’t keep us safe; public safety, not wealth, should determine whether someone is incarcerated pretrial.”

“By limiting judicial discretion through requirements that cash bail be set for a variety of misdemeanors, and by restricting charitable bail organizations, churches, and individuals from supporting members of their community with bail assistance, SB 63 fuels mass incarceration and removes a lifeline to impoverished Georgians who are incarcerated solely because they can’t pay bail,” the group said. This is like placing restrictions on a food pantry while claiming to solve hunger.”

In a legislative update, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said county officials should confer with their sheriffs and courts to understand how the legislation might impact jail and court operations.