This lawsuit challenges Dallas County’s blanket use of pre-set money bail amounts, ordered in closed-door proceedings, to detain people arrested for misdemeanors and felonies. The case was brought by six plaintiffs whom Dallas County automatically jailed under bail amounts they could not afford. They are joined by social justice organizations Faith in Texas and Texas Organizing Project Education Fund (TOP), whose members were denied access to bail proceedings by the Dallas County Sheriff.
In September 2018, the court ordered Dallas County to give all arrestees an individualized hearing within 48 hours of arrest. The order will take effect in January 2019. Both sides have appealed the order.
The case was filed following a six-month investigation of Texas counties that lock thousands of people away each year as they await trial simply because they cannot afford to pay money bail. The practice perpetuates a two-tiered and unconstitutional wealth-based incarceration system that devastates individuals, their families and their communities. Those too poor to afford bail must remain in jail for considerable periods of time, leading many to lose their jobs, their homes, and their children. As a result, defendants often plead guilty to the crimes of which they are charged, not because they are guilty, but because it’s the fastest way out of jail, and they are desperate to return to their communities.
With no empirical evidence that secured money bail increases arrestees’ rates of appearance in court or community safety, these practices wreak needless havoc on individuals’ lives and unnecessarily burden taxpayers.
The suit was jointly filed by the ACLU of Texas, the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, Civil Rights Corps and the Texas Fair Defense Project.