Plaintiff’s complaint requested that the Circuit Court for the County of Macomb take superintending control over the 38th District Court, requiring Judge Carl F. Gerds III to refrain from imposing pay or stay sentences on indigent defendants who are unable to pay their court debt.
Red Hills Community Probation, LLC contracted with local governments to supervise probation. Defendants unable to pay their court fines and fees were placed on probation.
Mr. Clark was convicted of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and sentenced to 38 months in prison, and to pay $1846.62, which included a $500 fine – the maximum permitted under Washington law. Mr. Clark appealed asking for a review of the $500 fine.
Ms. Reynolds had started a new job and could not get time off to appear in court. She spent four days in jail before she was brought before the judge. She was fined $520, $662 in court costs, and received additional fees of $450 for her original failure to appear. No credit was given for the four days she spent in jail. Her options were to pay the $1632 total or be put on a payment plan supervised by JCS.
The Municipal Court judge asks the defendants if they wish to pay or be put on a payment plan but rarely discloses the option of community service. If an individual asks for a payment plan, JCS sets the amount owed each month. No inquiry is made into the person’s ability to pay. The standard minimum payment is $140 per month.
The complaint alleged that impoverished city residents were jailed solely because of their inability to pay court fines and fees from traffic and other municipal violations.
The City of Ferguson jails people when they cannot afford to pay their traffic debt and cash bonds for other minor offenses. No inquiry is made into the person’s ability to pay, no alternatives to payment are offered to the individuals, and no counsel is provided.
This Act significantly modifies various provisions related to local government revenue in Missouri, including the imposition and enforcement of fines and fees in municipal courts. The Act imposed a 20% cap on municipal court revenue from fines and fees everywhere in the state except St. Louis County, where the cap was 12.5%.
Unable to pay debt from traffic tickets, impoverished defendants were given the options of paying the debt immediately or sitting out their debt in jail at the rate of $50.00 a day. Those in jail were given the further option of performing janitorial services at the rate of $25.00 a day. No inquiry was made as to the defendant’s ability to pay.
The SPLC filed a lawsuit challenging Cleveland’s and Watts’ incarceration as a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution.