During a lawsuit that took place in Georgia the federal attorneys claimed that bails are discriminating against poor people. The decision came after a man accused in a trial was forced to spend six days in jail because he couldn’t afford to pay the bail.
We may soon be able to get out of jail without paying bail thanks to the case of Maurice Walker, 54, who was arrested with a misdemeanor charge. Walker sued Calhoun after he was arrested for walking intoxicated, an offense for which the bail is $160. Walker, who lives off Social Security benefits, couldn’t afford to pay the bail, so he had to spend six days in jail before he was able to appear in front of the judge.
US Justice Department lawyers claimed the bail is discriminating the poor, as the bail amounts are not set according to the accused individual’s ability to pay. Thus, the Justice Department says the laws are unconstitutional.
Walker himself says the laws violate the equal rights and should be found unconstitutional. The Justice Department’s brief, signed by Vanita Gupta, Deputy Assistant Attorney General and US Attorney John Horn of the Northers District of Georgia. The brief states that people who can’t afford to pay the bail are not necessarily considered to be a danger for the society and that their risk of skipping the court appearances is low.
The Supreme Court decided that imprisoning people because they can’t afford to pay the bail, without giving them any other option, is not a constitutional act. The Supreme Court said the practice “effectively denies equal protection to one class of people within the criminal justice system”. The case is not unique either: a similar situation took place in Mississippi, in 2015.
Calhoun’s attorneys responded to the claims, stating the city’s policies on bails are meant to protect the society and sometimes even the accused person of themselves, thus, the bail shouldn’t be removed simply because the individual is not able to pay for it. The attorneys claim the defendants who are asked to pay a bail are charged with serious law violations and not trivialities.
Calhoun’s policies are defended by multiple groups, among which there is the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Georgia Sheriff’s Association and the Georgia Municipal Association.
Meanwhile, the attorneys from the Southern Center for Human Rights didn’t commented.