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Denver, Colorado Pays $30,000 Settlement Over a $50 Bond Fee

by Ed Lyon 

Denver, Colorado resident Mickey Howard, often homeless and unemployed, was arrested on June 9, 2018 and charged with public intoxication and domestic violence. He had $64 when he was booked into jail.

The next morning at his arraignment, a judge set Howard’s bond at $10 – an amount he could easily afford out of pocket. Except, however, the police would not release him because he did not have enough money to cover the bond fee of $50. He had already been charged $30 for a booking fee to pay for being fingerprinted and having his mug shot taken. 

Howard languished in jail under these circumstances for five days before the Colorado Freedom Fund stepped in to pay the required fee to secure his release. By then, however, he had lost his job and housing.

With assistance from the ACLU, Howard filed a federal lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking an end to all such fees plus unspecified monetary damages. The city and county of Denver quickly capitulated, offering a $30,000 settlement that was accepted in December 2018. 

Additionally, Denver’s Department of Public Safety announced an end to its pre-trial monitoring program, which cost releasees as much as $55 per day. El Paso County, Colorado had already paid $195,000 to 184 people who remained in jail because they couldn’t afford the $55 daily monitoring fee in a separate lawsuit also brought by the ACLU. 

“I started this case to get justice and make change,” Howard said in a news release. “Nobody should be stuck behind bars because they cannot pay. With the ACLU’s help, we have made lasting change, and that makes me proud.”

The settlement was finalized and the case dismissed on January 30, 2019. See: Howard v. City and County of Denver, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:18-cv-02593-CMA-STV. 

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Additional source: denverpost.com

Related legal case

Howard v. City and County of Denver