McKee et al. v. City of Amarillo

Amarillo residents were jailed through the City’s “pay or lay” policy. It stated, “…except as otherwise provided, the Court shall require the defendant to remain in custody… until the fine, State imposed fees, and other penalties are paid.” The least serious crimes in Texas are punishable by fines that should be paid in full. A person unable to pay in full was placed on a payment plan without any consideration of the person’s ability to pay. A failure to pay resulted in an arrest warrant. Community service is not offered as an alternative to jail.


Plaintiffs’ motion was dismissed for failure to state a claim. The policy was not a moving force for defendants’ actions because the policy itself provided an exception “…except as otherwise provided…” allowing municipal officers to decline to arrest a person unable to pay the fines because of their indigency. The municipal officers acted in contravention to the city policy.

You can read the full text of case documents here: Original Complaint, Amended Complaint, Opinion and Order

You can also read about the named plaintiff, Rachel McKee.

42 USC § 1983 (alleging due process and equal protection violations)
2:16-cv-00009 (N.D. Tex. 2016)
January 2016
Hoffman, Sheffield, Sauseda & Hoffman, PLLC