The ACLU of Colorado has settled a lawsuit with Teller and Pueblo counties concerning a man held without bond for two months for charges that were later dismissed.
Michael Bailey was arrested in 2015 on misdemeanor charges. According to the suit, he was not brought before a judge and instead languished in jail without bond for 52 days, losing pay and ultimately his job in the process. The ACLU says that once Bailey went before a judge, he was immediately released on a personal recognizance bond. Later, his charges were dropped completely.
As a result of the settlement, the ACLU says the counties made the following agreement:
- Pueblo and Teller Counties agree to bring arrestees from either jurisdiction promptly before a judge for first appearance, including setting of bond.
- Pueblo and Teller Counties will attempt to bring new arrestees before the county court for first appearance at the next court session after arrest.
- In any event, Pueblo and Teller Counties must bring new arrestees before the court for first appearance within two “court days,” which is defined as any day the county court is in session (currently Monday–Friday).
The ACLU also released a statement praising the sheriff's of both counties.
"he ACLU is proud to announce a settlement of Mr. Bailey’s case that, we hope, provides a framework to begin addressing the statewide problem of pre-trial arrestees languishing in jail for days, weeks and, in some cases, months without seeing a judge, simply waiting for transfer to another jurisdiction.
This settlement was possible only because of prompt, earnest and creative efforts by Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor and Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell to seek both a just resolution for Mr. Bailey and a long-term solution to prevent this kind of injustice from occurring in the future. While this agreement specifically addresses delays in seeing a judge for arrestees held in Pueblo and Teller Counties, it is our hope that it also provides a platform for a broader statewide discussion aimed at solving this problem for the entire state.
While all sheriffs likely agree that no defendant should wait in jail without being taken before a judge for 52 days, we believe many sheriffs are comfortable with pre-trial defendants languishing in jail without seeing a judge for one to two weeks waiting for pick-up by another county. These delays are unconstitutional and do not comport with the duties of sheriffs outlined in Colorado’s rules of criminal procedure. With Sheriff Taylor at the helm of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, we have high hopes that a statewide solution is already or will soon be on the agenda for Colorado’s sheriffs.
Pre-trial detainees like Mr. Baily are innocent in the eyes of the law, have only been accused of a crime, and some will see their charges fully dismissed. Yet, more than half of the people held in Colorado’s overcrowded jails on any given day are pre-trial. Jailing people pre-trial not only raises serious constitutional concerns, but also harms families and communities. While in jail for 52 days, Mr. Bailey lost his home and his job. Pre-trial defendants are at real risk of losing custody of their children and being severely prejudiced in mounting a defense to their criminal case. It is a testament to Mr. Bailey’s resilience that he was able to find employment and, after some time, housing after being held in jail for 52 days. Many defendants jailed pre-trial never fully recover from that experience.
With nearly every one of Colorado’s county jails operating at or above capacity, it is far past time for our state to take on meaningful bail reform."