Fail­ure to pay $50 fee should not keep de­fen­dants in jail, Den­ver court says

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kieran Ni­chol­son

A $50 re­quired bail as­sess­ment fee in Den­ver will not be used to keep peo­ple in jail who post bail but don’t have money for the fee, Den­ver County Court or­dered Fri­day.

The ex­ec­u­tive court or­der is a re­sponse to a law­suit filed Wed­nes­day in U.S. Dis­trict Court by the ACLU of Colorado on be­half of 25year­old Mickey Howard, who spent five days in jail, af­ter post­ing $10 bail, be­cause he couldn’t pay the $50 fee.

“The Court finds that this re­quired … fee as­sess­ment shall not cause any de­fen­dant to re­main in cus­tody due to an in­abil­ity to pay,” the court said in a news re­lease. “This fee will be as­sessed and later col­lected with other fines and costs.”

Howard spent an ex­tra five days in jail at a cost of $70 a day for a to­tal of about $350, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

When booked into jail on charges of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and pub­lic in­tox­i­ca­tion, Howard had $64, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit and Den­ver County Court records.

That was enough to pay the $10 bail and his $30 book­ing fee for fin­ger­print­ ing and tak­ing a mug shot. But that left him $26 short for pay­ing his $50 bail fee, the law­suit says.

Howard’s plight demon­strates that the sys­tem was keep­ing peo­ple in jail based on poverty, an in­abil­ity to pay a fee, said Mark Sil­ver­stein, le­gal direc­tor of the Colorado ACLU. Fur­ther­more, Howard, and oth­ers like him — pre­trial de­fen­dants — should be seen as in­no­cent in the eyes of the law, and as­sess­ing the fee up front is a vi­o­la­tion of due process.

Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment, how­ever, is a step in the right di­rec­tion, Sil­ver­stein said.

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