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.
Included in the appellant’s sentence was “court costs” of $234. The appellant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the amount of the costs.
In 2007, New York’s Special Commission on the Future of the New York State Courts visited nearly 100 courts in every judicial district, met with hundreds of judges and court officials, and heard testimony from 85 witnesses in order to learn more about the status of New York town and village courts. This report is the product of their comprehensive, first-of-its-kind review of New York’s town and village courts.
Two appellants convicted of misdemeanors offered participation in the pretrial diversion program upon payment of $230 in fees. They filed a complaint alleging removal from the program because of their inability to pay the fees is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Harrison County Jail was a modern day debtors’ prison. Officers went to predominantly African American neighborhoods arbitrarily checking people to see if they had paid their court fines and fees.
An indigent's equal protection rights are violated when defendants can avoid prosecution by paying a fine, without determining an individual’s ability to pay the fine.
In Bearden v. Georgia, the Supreme Court held that courts may only revoke probation and/or sentence the defendant to imprisonment if the defendant willfully refused to pay.
Petitioner’s due process rights were violated because he is entitled to a hearing before a disinterested and impartial judge in the first instance. The mayor was neither.