ACLU, Washington County Settle Lawsuit Over Court Fines
SEATTLE (AP) — A county in Washington state has ended its practice of jailing people or requiring them to toil on work crews if they fail to pay court fines and fees.
The American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday that it settled a lawsuit it filed last fall against Benton County. The case was part of national effort to combat the effect of court fines on poor defendants.
In 2010, the ACLU investigated the way courts impose fines in several states, noting that the penalties often compound with interest or late fees, contributing to the impoverishment of some defendants.
County leaders and its prosecutor opposed putting people behind bars for failing to pay fees, but judges were slow to change.
The ACLU says Benton County will no longer issue warrants over unpaid fines, and judges will inquire about a person's ability to pay, among other changes.