A new federal lawsuit is challenging a Georgia law that increases cash bail requirements and restricts organizations from helping people pay bail while their criminal cases are pending.

Senate Bill 63, signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp last month and effective July 1, limits individuals and organizations from posting more than three cash bonds annually unless they meet certain bail bond company requirements. These requirements include passing background checks, paying fees, holding a business license, securing approval from the local sheriff, and establishing a cash escrow account or other collateral.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed the lawsuit last week. They represent Barred Business Foundation, an Atlanta nonprofit that campaigns to pay cash bail, and two Athens residents who run a charitable bail fund through their church.

The lawsuit argues that this part of the law is unconstitutional and seeks to prevent its enforcement. It also requests a preliminary order to halt enforcement while the legal challenge proceeds. The lawsuit states that the law imposes the harshest restrictions on charitable bail funds in the nation, calling the restrictions “incredibly burdensome” and “irrational and arbitrary.” It claims these restrictions will effectively eliminate charitable bail funds in Georgia.

Earlier this month, the Bail Project, a national nonprofit that helps low-income people post bond, announced the closure of its Atlanta branch due to the new law.

“The law is cruel and costly, forcing people to remain in jail because they can’t afford bail and preventing others from helping them,” said Cory Isaacson, legal director of ACLU of Georgia. “This law criminalizes exercising First Amendment rights to help those detained simply because they are poor.”

Critics, including Democrats and other opponents of the Republican-backed legislation, made similar arguments during the legislative debates earlier this year. Supporters of the measure argued that well-meaning organizations should follow the same rules as bail bond companies. The measure is part of conservative efforts to restrict community bail funds, which were used to post bail for individuals involved in the 2020 racial injustice protests and, more recently, for those protesting a new public safety training center near Atlanta.

State prosecutors noted that some “Stop Cop City” protesters had the Atlanta Solidarity Fund’s phone number written on their bodies, indicating an intention to engage in activities that might lead to arrest. Three leaders of this bail fund were charged with charity fraud last year and are among 61 individuals indicted on racketeering charges.

Governor Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, and the Fulton County and Athens-Clarke County solicitors general, who handle lower-level crimes in those counties, are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Representatives for Kemp, Carr, and the Fulton County solicitor general’s office declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation. The Associated Press has also reached out to the Athens-Clarke County solicitor general’s office for comment.

The new law also mandates cash bail for 30 additional crimes, including 18 that are usually misdemeanors, such as failure to appear in court for a traffic citation.

In cases affected by Georgia’s new cash bail restrictions, a Valdosta personal injury attorney could provide critical support and advocacy for individuals impacted by the law. Although personal injury attorneys primarily handle cases involving physical harm or emotional distress due to accidents or negligence, their expertise in legal proceedings can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system, especially for those facing financial hurdles due to the new bail restrictions.

Firstly, a personal injury attorney can offer legal advice and representation to those struggling to secure release from jail under the new law. They can help clients understand their rights, the specifics of Senate Bill 63, and any possible legal avenues to challenge their detention or reduce bail amounts. Attorneys can also file motions to reconsider bail amounts or conditions, potentially securing more favorable terms for their clients.

Additionally, personal injury attorneys can collaborate with charitable bail funds and other organizations advocating for the rights of the detained. By leveraging their legal expertise, they can assist these organizations in meeting the stringent new requirements imposed by the law, such as obtaining business licenses and passing background checks, thus ensuring they can continue their crucial work.

Moreover, these attorneys can support clients in broader civil rights challenges, working alongside groups like the ACLU to argue against the constitutionality of the restrictions. By providing pro bono services or reduced-fee arrangements, personal injury attorneys can make legal assistance more accessible to those who need it most, ensuring that financial constraints do not prevent individuals from obtaining the legal support necessary to fight unjust detainment.

In summary, a Valdosta personal injury attorney can be a powerful ally for individuals and organizations grappling with Georgia’s new cash bail law, offering legal representation, strategic advice, and support in challenging these restrictive measures.