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Court petition contends woman jailed because she can't pay fines

Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 3:20 PM
Last updated 7:29 PM
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A woman jailed for nearly three months is too poor to pay-court ordered fines and fees is being held illegally, a habeas corpus petition filed this week contends.

The petition, filed in Richmond County Superior Court on Wednesday, seeks the release of Virginia Cash, 32, and a declaration that privatizing probation services is unconstitutional.

Since 2004, Cash has been charged with numerous misdemeanor offenses and is still on probation from Richmond County State Court for driving on a suspended license, no proof of insurance and possession of marijuana in 2006. Cash’s most recent arrest was on Oct. 16, based on a warrant obtained by Sentinel Offender Services. The warrant accused Cash of violating the terms of her 2006 probation sentence because she allegedly failed to complete or provide proof of complying with court-ordered conditions that included fines and fees, community service and drug testing.

On Oct. 18, Judge David D. Watkins ordered Cash to pay $535 or spend five months in jail. Watkins also remolded Cash’s 2006 sentence to require electronic monitoring, which means an additional monthly probation charge and an $80 start-up fee.

According to the petition filed by attorney John Long on Cash’s behalf, Cash doesn’t have any money. The petition further alleges that it is unconstitutional to jail someone because she is poor. The petition cites case law that prohibits incarceration in lieu of payment unless a judge first determines the person has financial resources.

In effect, according to the petition, the court has shifted the financial burden onto local taxpayers.

So far, Cash’s incarceration has cost county taxpayers $3,792.

Cash’s petition contends Sentinel has an economic incentive to have judges extend probation sentences by ordering sentences to run consecutively and stopping the clock on sentences when probation violation warrants are obtained.

Although Cash was convicted of three misdemeanor charges that could have been punished by a fine or a sentence of one year probation, six years after she pleaded guilty Cash still has nearly three more years of probation to serve, according to court records.

The petition also attacks the use of electronic monitoring and the judge’s modification of Cash’s 2006 sentence to include the monitoring. The petition alleges Georgia statutes regarding electronic monitoring only apply to the state’s Department of Corrections probation officers, not private probation companies.

In the Oct. 18 hearing, the petition alleges, the judge didn’t ask about Cash’s ability to pay a start-up fee for the electronic monitoring, and Cash will remain in jail because she is too poor to make the payment.

Cash’s petition and five lawsuits filed on behalf of Sentinel clients are assigned to Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig. Sentinel has stopped providing probation services to the Superior Courts in Richmond and Columbia counties after the lawsuits were filed. Craig has ordered Sentinel to turn over its records for former and current probationers from those courts.

The Richmond County State Court has its own contract with Sentinel to provide probation services.

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YeCats
10093
Points
YeCats 01/03/13 - 05:18 pm
5
2
Upholding the law

Don't roll the dice if you can't pay the price.....

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 01/03/13 - 05:30 pm
3
2
Quite an "arrangement" for a

Quite an "arrangement" for a commercial operator to be an extension of the law and enforce a policy where those with little monetary means pay more to stay out of jail.

"So you are poor? We'll just put you on this here pro-bay-shun where you can just pay a litte bit for 6 years, that way it's not such a burden see?"

Little Lamb
43999
Points
Little Lamb 01/03/13 - 05:38 pm
7
5
How much

Okay, so everyone agrees that she did not pay everything she owed; but my question is, how much did she pay? Did she cough up a few bucks every now and then? If so, then she got the fine and the time. I am glad that attorney Long is filing these lawsuits. This private probation stuff, ankle monitoring stuff, drug testing stuff has gotten out of hand. When you are let out of jail you should be free, not subjected to a different kind of slavery.

Dixieman
13087
Points
Dixieman 01/03/13 - 05:47 pm
7
2
Pay up.

Don't borrow money that you can't repay.
Don't take on credit card or mortgage payments that you can't afford.
Don't do the crime unless you can do the time or pay the fine.
'Nuff said.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 01/03/13 - 06:41 pm
4
3
Agreed, Dixie. However, the

Agreed, Dixie. However, the taxpayers bear the burden of all of it. The court system needs a vast overhaul of common sense. They could let the poor work it off, but that would require the court working and we know how bureaucrats hate that word.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 01/03/13 - 06:52 pm
3
3
Your talents are so wasted

Your talents are so wasted LL.

myfather15
50254
Points
myfather15 01/04/13 - 08:03 am
5
2
@LL

Slavery?? You've got to be kidding me right? You are comparing the barbaric enslaving of people whose only crime was they existed, to someone who has committed crimes and is being punished for them?

What kind of logic is this? I've been working the courts for 16 years now. I lot of cases where the person is charged with misdemeanor crimes, if they come to court with the full fine amount, they aren't placed on probation. But, the vast majority of the time, the person doesn't have ANY money with them. They've had MONTHS to prepare for their court date, but as with most irresponsible people. They come with NOTHING, EXPECTING to get probation.

Since they don't have the cash money to pay their fines, the judge has MERCY on them, placing them on probation in LIEU of JAIL TIME, and allow them to pay their fines while on probation. The judge has every right to NOT place them on probation and require them to DO THEIR TIME INCARCERATED. So, he is actually helping them by allowing them to make payments on their fines through probation. So, what is the alternative? Should Judges do away with probation and just incarcerate them for their entire sentence? This would result in thousands losing jobs for misdemeanor offenses. There are many probationers who realize THEY committed the offense, take responsibility and pay their fines on time. Now, because of this individual, probation might be reconsidered completely and more people incarcerated because she isn't a responsible human being.

She wasn't incarcerated because she is poor, she is being incarcerated because she violated the law and now doesn't want to pay the price. As another poster stated, don't commit the crimes and you won't have to worry about this. You don't have any clue how many times we arrest someone for probation violation warrants because they didn't pay their fines, only to find a bag of weed in their pocket, numerous bottles of liquor in their house, 18 packs of beer in the fridge, etc. So, they can still afford to purchase their WEED, Liquor or Beer, but can't afford that pesky probation fine. I have no sympathy for people like this.

Having said that, I'm neutral on private probation services. I don't know if they are a good thing or not. I don't really agree that a private probation service in the business of making profit, should be doing so based upon people committing crimes. I think it would be a better idea for the State to monitor probation but this would skyrocket the States expense, for misdemeanor probation.

GnipGnop
11543
Points
GnipGnop 01/04/13 - 08:32 am
2
2
I agree with myfather...

More entitlement mentality. I don't have enough info on the private probation companies to have an opinion other than this...if a private company has to be overseen by the entity they are supposed to be working for then why not just do it yourself in the first place and remove all doubt it's being done the right way.

daphne3520
950
Points
daphne3520 01/04/13 - 01:13 pm
0
0
You Go, Dixieman!!!!!! nt
Unpublished

no text

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 01/04/13 - 04:42 pm
0
0
Concerning the post "as with

Concerning the post "as with most irresponsible people. They come with NOTHING,". So what is the reasoning behind a judge giving probation and saddling them with more debt, if they have already demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to pay their fine?

Hate to fill up the jails with petty criminals, but after they violate probation, aren't they filling up anyway and now it's for felony probation violation ala longer sentences?

corgimom
28344
Points
corgimom 01/05/13 - 05:51 pm
0
0
All I know is that if I get

All I know is that if I get my license suspended, I'm not legally allowed to drive. And she did. That was her choice. Sounds like making good choices isn't in her skill set.

Should we allow poor people to just ignore the law, ignore court orders and ignore fines, while people like me, who have worked hard all their life, be held accountable and pay fines-because I'm not poor? Because I was poor, didn't like it, and worked hard to get out of poverty?

How is that Constitutional? How is that equal protection under the law? Because if she shouldn't have to pay fines, then nobody should.

Bulldog1
223
Points
Bulldog1 01/06/13 - 11:19 am
0
0
Jail Time

Jail time and hard labor if they can't pay. There are more than enough projects that need doing. The county can't even cut its grass anymore. Let 'em haul trash, clean empty lots, paint buildings, wash cars and buses and pick up the downtown.
If they can't pay the fines, they sure as hell can't pay for all the fees charged by the probation dept. There is one HUGE opportunity for someone with real brains to completely overhaul our local system of dealing with these low level offenders.

corgimom
28344
Points
corgimom 01/06/13 - 07:00 pm
0
0
Bulldog, if a driver hit you

Bulldog, if a driver hit you and didn't have insurance, you wouldn't feel it was low level. How about the law that says if you don't have a valid driver's license, or insurance, you are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle, period? So nobody has to have insurance, because if you get caught you just say you can't pay the fine?

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