Edwards v. Cofield
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging Randolph County, Alabama’s practice of using money bail to detain people arrested for misdemeanors and felonies. The practice perpetuates a two-tiered and unconstitutional wealth-based incarceration system. In the state of Alabama in general and in Randolph County in particular, financial conditions for release are based on a predetermined bail schedule, not on whether a person is a flight risk or a danger to community safety. As it stands, a person who can afford money bail will be immediately released after arrest, while a person who cannot will be incarcerated. Worse, those who are too poor to afford bail can remain in jail for up to four weeks without a hearing, with grave consequences to their lives, livelihoods, and ability to defend themselves in court. It is wrong that how quickly a person is released—if they are released at all— depends entirely on their access to money. The plaintiff in this case represents a wider class of those who have their rights infringed by the unlawful money bail system in Randolph County. The suit was jointly filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Alabama, and the Southern Poverty Law Center in Randolph County.