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ACLU files federal lawsuit over Texas bail system

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Texas [advocacy websites] and Arnold & Porter filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Sunday in federal district court challenging the Galveston County Jail's policy of releasing those arrested for felonies and misdemeanors who can afford to pay the cash bail and detaining those who cannot.

According to the complaint, "[t]he County sets these payment amounts without any meaningful hearing."

The plaintiff, Aaron Booth, is currently detained in the Galveston County Jail because he is unable to pay his bail. The complaint alleges that Booth had no attorney when the bail was set, he was not asked if he could afford bail and he had no chance to explain his inability to pay.

The ACLU of Texas said [press release] that the bail setting was "arbitrary." Trisha Trigilio, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said, "[a] system that requires people to buy their freedom is not a system interested in dispensing justice." She went on to say, "[r]ich or poor, everyone should have a meaningful chance for a judge to hear them out before they are locked in a jail cell—but that's not what's happening in Galveston County."

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