Session: 2023-2024

ACLU-PA Position: Opposes

SB 1120 (PN 1436) would prohibit judges from releasing a defendant deemed a “threat to public safety” on non-monetary bail.
By encouraging the overuse of monetary bail, SB 1120 would exacerbate the disparate impact of cash bail on lower-income defendants and people of color. SB 1120 would also be ineffective, since anyone deemed a "threat to public safety” would still be released as long as they have the money to pay their bond.
Furthermore, SB 1120 would be facially unconstitutional. Specifically:
  • SB 1120 would violate Article I, § 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which expansively provides that “[a]ll prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient sureties” except for certain specified exceptions. Our constitution operates from a strong presumption of freedom, with a high threshold before the state can imprison a person. Because SB 1120 would categorically prohibit non-monetary bail based solely on charges filed, it would unconstitutionally jail people pre-conviction with no ability for a judge to consider the specific circumstances of the charges, the defendant, or the likelihood they will return for a future court date.
  • SB 1120 would violate the separation of powers under Article V, § 10(c) of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which grants the Supreme Court “exclusive authority to promulgate rules of procedure for the courts.” SB 1120 amounts to an attempt by the Legislature to limit or interfere with the court’s constitutional purview by unilaterally preventing judges from releasing a defendant on non-monetary bail—defendants they may otherwise release. Such a fundamental change to the manner in which courts can set bail must be made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Check the bill's status here.


Senator Devlin Robinson



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