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Texas could do this: No more bail for traffic tickets!

Jun 17th, 2015 | Category: Lead Article

by Jesse Marx, The Desert Sun, PDT June 13, 2015

First off, as the ACLU pointed out, a trial should not be contingent on the size of one’s bank account. That’s called justice for the well-to-do and a clear violation of the spirit, if not the law, of the land.

On this last point, Bob Richmond agrees. For years, the Palm Springs conservative — a former chairman of the county Republican Party — has been calling attention to the practice. Twice, he said, a judge demanded $500 from him, but only after he’d pleaded not guilty.

The latest of these incidents took place in spring 2014 after Richmond was cited for a red light violation. In court, he refused to pay bail and instead filed a motion to dismiss his case on the grounds that the cash-in-exchange-for-trial system violated his constitutional right of due process. The judge, Richmond wrote, even threatened to add another $300 if the bail wasn’t paid by the next hearing.

That next hearing, however, took place more than 45 days after Richmond’s arraignment, which is the threshold for a speedy trial. In court papers, his attorney, Indio-based Michael Kennedy, used phrases like “scandal,” “a ruse” and “illicit tribute.”

Riverside County Judge B.J. Bjork backed off. He dismissed the case “in the interest of justice.”

“It shouldn’t matter whether you’re poor or middle class or whether you have a lawyer in there,” Richmond told me. “Bail is for those who are a flight risk.”

In April, legal advocates in the Bay Area and beyond published a report on the four million Californians who do not have a driver’s license because they either failed to appear or pay up. And those who can afford bail are contributing to the court’s operations.

“In short, exorbitant fees & fines from citations are paying for the basic functions of our government,” wrote the ACLU of Northern California on its website. “That’s a secret tax.”

Finally, some across-the-aisle agreement.

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