ACLU files class action lawsuit in Michigan over broken bail system
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ACLU files class action lawsuit in Michigan over broken bail system

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a class action suit against magistrates, a chief judge and the county sheriff who preside over arraignments in Detroit, alleging that their broken bail system discriminates against the poor who cannot afford to pay the amounts.

With the high rates of poverty impacting Detroit, the ACLU alleges more and more citizens are being unfairly impacted by the bail system who are picked up on minor offenses. The lawsuit claims that there are right to counsel violations because most clients do not have an attorney when bail is set. The class action attempts to narrow who can be jailed while awaiting conviction and speeds up detention hearings, so citizens are not being detained for long periods of time for failing to post bail.

Judges still get discretion in extreme cases to determine whether the individual is a flight or safety risk. However, under claims of due process and equal protection violations, the court is urged to move away from the high percentage of those forced to pay cash bail in order to be released. The plaintiffs in the case have been stuck in jail for failing to pay a $200 bail. Other extreme cases involve being forced to give birth in a jail or being fired from a job for failing to inform employers that they were arrested and could not post bail.

The 36th District Court now faces heavy scrutiny for its alleged constitutional violations.