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Last Thursday, the DOJ filed an injunction that would bar jailing people who can’t afford bail, calling it unconstitutional. This marks the first time any government administration has demanded such action before a federal appeals court, NBC News reports.

“Bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment,” the Justice Department said in a friend of court brief.

The filing follows the Obama administration’s latest appeal for state courts to move away from a fixed cash-based bail system, placing those who can’t post bail in jail.

The DOJ acted in reference to the case of Maurice Walker of Calhoun, Georgia, who was jailed for six nights after police arrested and charged him for the misdemeanor offense of walking under the influence. He was told he could not get out of jail unless he paid the fixed bail amount of $160, according to NBC News.

In January, a federal judge ruled in Walker’s favor and ordered Calhoun to release those arrested on misdemeanor offenses based on their recognizance. The ruling also required the city to enact change in their post-arrest procedures.

The city countered with an appeal, citing “A system of unsecured recognizance bonds,” and that releasing inmates for misdemeanor offenses, “greatly reduces the incentive for defendants to appear.”

NBC News writes:

The city is supported by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association and by a group representing the nation’s bail bondsmen. They argue that the Constitution does not guarantee bail, it only bans excessive bail.

“It thus simply cannot be that any defendant arrested for any crime must be immediately released based on a bare assertion of indigence,” the group said in its court filing.

Advocates of the court filing applauded the DOJ’s action, while a spokesperson for the defense argued “pretrial liberty must be the norm and detention prior to trial the carefully limited exception.”



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DOJ Moves To Block Debtors’ Prisons, Calls It Unconstitutional  was originally published on