Sep 23, 2015 1:21 PM

Yearlong study finds NH defendants jailed when cannot afford to pay fines

The Associated Press

CONCORD (AP) — The state American Civil Liberties Union says a yearlong study shows too many defendants who owe fines are jailed when they can't afford to pay.

Civil liberties union lawyers say the practice violates constitutional principles when judges don't appoint lawyers for the defendants and don't consider their ability to pay before jailing them.

Attorney Albert "Buzz" Scherr, who helped lead the study, said the practice is also "stupid economics." The investigation showed taxpayers spent nearly $167,000 in 2013 to jail debtors who owed fines totaling less than half that.

Data collected by the ACLU show 289 defendants who owed fines were jailed in nine of the state's 10 counties.

Circuit Court Administrative Judge Edwin W. Kelly says judges handled 83,000 cases involving fines in 2013 and try very hard to keep people out of jail.


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