Amy Marie Palacios is a single mother with two children, who earned $20,090 in 2016 – below the federal poverty line for her three-person household. Her driver’s license was suspended in 2015 because she failed to pay the fine for a speeding ticket. Ms. Palacios paid the speeding ticket in 2016, but before she could pay the reinstatement fees required to get her license back, she was pulled over by state troopers. Ms. Palacios was driving because her friend who was pregnant suddenly fell ill at the wheel and asked Ms. Palacio to drive instead. In spite of her explanation, Ms. Palacios was cited for driving on a suspended license and given a court date.
Ms. Palacios could not attend court on that date because of her work schedule. She explained this to court staff and was informed that her employer needed to send an affidavit on her behalf. The affidavit was sent, yet Ms. Palacios was tried in her absence, convicted and sentenced to serve jail time or pay $647.50 in fines and fees. A bench warrant was later issued for her arrest and immediate jailing for 30 days unless she paid $647.50. She never received noticed of the bench warrant.
Ms. Palacios was the passenger in another friend’s car when a patrol car stopped the vehicle for improper tags. The officer asked Ms. Palacios for her identification, ran her name, and discovered the bench warrant. He told Ms. Palacios she had two options: immediately pay $647.50 or serve 21-days in jail. Because she could not pay the $647.50, Ms. Palacios served a 21-day sentence in the Lexington County Detention Center. Ms. Palacios lost her job while she was in custody.
At the time her complaint was filed, she still owed the Central Traffic Court $25.
Related: Brown v. Lexington County