The ACLU of Colorado sued Denver on behalf of Mickey Howard, who was held in the Denver Jail for 5 days after a court ordered his release upon payment of a $10 bond, because he could not pay an additional $50 “bond fee.”

According to the lawsuit, Denver has a policy of continuing to imprison people who are unable to pay a $50 “bond fee,” even when they have the money to post the bond amount set by the court.

According to the ACLU, when Mr. Howard entered the jail on two alleged ordinance violations, he had $64, which was enough to pay the $10 bond set by the court as well as the $50 bond fee. At the time of booking, however, Denver took another $30 from Mr. Howard as a “booking fee.” That left Mr. Howard with only $34, which was not enough to buy his release.

The ACLU lawsuit identifies two Denver policies that caused Mr. Howard’s unlawful detention:

  • (1) requiring defendants to pay a $50 bond fee, in addition to the monetary bond set by the court, in order to gain their release; and
  • (2) taking $30 from defendants at booking even when doing so will make them unable to post bond and/or pay the bond fee.

After five days in jail, Mr. Howard was freed only because the Colorado Freedom Fund, a non-profit bail fund, paid the bond fee.  It costs $70 per day for Denver to house an inmate.  Over the five days Mr. Howard was in jail, Denver spent more than $350 to detain him because he could not pay a $50 fee.

All charges against Mr. Howard were eventually dismissed.  However, Denver is currently billing him (and turning those bills over to collections) for over $600 in additional fees that are related solely to the dismissed case.

In August, El Paso County agreed, as part of a $190,000 settlement with ACLU of Colorado, to compensate 184 individuals who were held in the El Paso County Jail solely because they could not pay a $55 “pretrial supervision” fee.

The ACLU lawsuit was filed in federal district court.  Howard is represented by Silverstein and Wallace of ACLU of Colorado.

Case number

No. 18-cv-02593