Defendants in the Gardendale Municipal Court are placed on probation when they are unable to pay court fines and fees in full. Professional Probation Services, Inc. (PPS) is the sole probation provider through a contract with the City and the Municipal Court judge. PPS charges a $40 monthly fee which is paid before the court’s fines and fees.
Velia Duenas, a homeless, married mother of two children, had her license suspended because she was unable to pay $1088 for three juvenile citations. She continued to drive, received three misdemeanor convictions, and spent 141 days in jail because she was unable to pay the fines.
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.
Appellant was held in contempt and incarcerated for failure to pay his court fines and fees without any inquiry into his ability to pay. The appellant mentioned that his sibling may be able to pay, but no further inquiry was made by the court. He was sentenced to thirty days imprisonment with credit for time served and a $200 fee to purge the contempt.
County Clerks in Tennessee automatically suspend the driver’s license of persons who fail to pay their traffic debt within a 30-90 day window.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a landmark report detailing the disproportionate harms that communities of color suffer from fines and fees.
Plaintiffs allege that defendant’s practice of suspending drivers’ licenses indefinitely until all court fines and fees are paid regardless of ability to pay violates equal protection and due process.
In Thompson v. State of Florida, the plaintiff, an indigent mother of three, had her probation revoked for failure to pay fines and fees.
The plaintiff alleged that the two defendant-judges instituted an “Amnesty Program” that forgave fees owed by probation clients to the plaintiff, which interfered with the contractual relationship that existed between the plaintiff and its probation clients. Furthermore, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant judges used their judicial office and powers to unlawfully take plaintiff’s substantial property rights without due process of law.
This case alleges that Lexington County operates a modern-day debtors’ prison pursuant to a Default Payment Policy and a Trial in Abstentia Policy.