Georgia Bail Bill Fails

( – Georgia’s attempts to toughen bail requirements for more crimes failed to pass on March 29th, which means the state will not require cash bail or property for more crimes than permitted under current law.

Senate Bill 63 would have imposed bail requirements on additional crimes such as misdemeanor drug possession and passing bad checks. The bail system requires the accused to come up with cash or property as collateral to make sure the accused shows up for trial and does not flee.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to make sure accused criminals actually show up in court.

Bill supporter Houston Gaines, a Republican Rep. from Athens, said the bill would distinguish Georgia from “soft-on-crime” states such as New York, Illinois, and California. Gaines described the policy of those states as “catch-and-release” for criminals. 

The bill failed a House vote 95-81. It would have required cash or property bail for 31 more crimes than meet the criteria under current Georgia law. The two legislative chambers could not agree on a final version of the bill, and Wednesday’s House vote means the bill won’t be considered in this session of the state legislature which ended at midnight on March 30th.

The 2024 legislature could take up the bill. 

Georgia law already requires the accused to pony up cash or property if they want to get out of jail before trial for seven of the most extreme crimes, including murder and rape. SB 63 would have added dozens more crimes to the list of those requiring bail, among those would have been charges of reckless driving or unlawful assembly.

Most of the opponents were Democrats who spoke against the bill on the grounds that it would cause more poor people to stay in jail, perhaps losing their jobs, their children or their housing. They also said it would cost taxpayers much more to house more people in jail. 

House Democratic Whip Sam Park of Lawrenceville said the bill would have created a “two-tier legal system”.

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