In 2016, Alamosa County spent $200,000—65% of the court’s yearly budget—to incarcerate municipal defendants, primarily for nonpayment of fines and fees.
This case study of municipal courts in Colorado is based on a multi-year ACLU investigation which revealed that despite a bipartisan reform effort in the state legislature, many of Colorado’s municipal courts persistently ignore both constitutional standards and state law and continue to employ practices that punish defendants for their poverty.
For instance, the Alamosa Municipal Court imposes high fines and fees with monthly payment plans too expensive for participants to meet; charges for missed payments; subjects defendants to months or years of court appearances under threat of arrest; and jails them for days or weeks when unable to make full payments.
You can read the full report here.
- Although CO’s state and county courts are overseen by the CO Supreme Court, CO municipal courts operate under the principle of “home rule”—without uniformity in their structure, procedures, or concepts of justice.
- While some judges work toward reform in their court, others routinely ignore the constitutional rights of defendants.
- In 2016, Alamosa County spent $200,000—65% of the court’s yearly budget—to incarcerate municipal defendants, primarily for nonpayment of fines and fees.