AZ Court: State Can’t Force Defendants to Pay for GPS Monitors

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Public News Service on 8/27/2019 by Mark Richardson

KINGMAN, Ariz. — An Arizona appeals court has ruled a defendant whose trial is pending cannot be forced to either pay hefty fees for GPS monitoring or wait in jail.

The ACLU of Arizona challenged before the Arizona Court of Appeals the case of a man who was released while awaiting trial, couldn’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars a month for an ankle monitor and was therefore ordered to jail until his trial.

ACLU attorney Jared Keenan said the Arizona law doesn’t require courts to determine if a defendant is financially able to afford the monitoring fees – although he thinks it should.

“One of the arguments we made to the Court of Appeals was that before you impose any relief condition – whether it’s a cash bail amount, or some sort of other condition that could cost someone money – the court has to consider one’s ability to pay,” Keenan said.

The appeals-court ruling applies only to the defendant in the Mohave County case, but Keenan said he sees it as a strong indicator of how the judges might rule when they consider the constitutionality of the state bail law.

He said it boils down to the belief that, in most cases, a court can’t put a person in jail simply because they can’t afford to either make bail or pay monitoring fees. In the Mohave County case, he said, the judge required GPS monitoring for the defendant solely because of state legal requirements, not because the person was considered a flight risk.

“It has less to do with who’s paying for the monitoring and more to do with the fact that it mandates pre-trial electronic monitoring for everyone based on charge alone, without any kind of individualized assessment of the necessity of pretrial monitoring related to that particular defendant,” Keenan said.

The state Attorney General agrees with the appeals court, saying state law doesn’t give courts the power to force people to pay for their own mandatory pretrial monitoring.

Mohave County probation officials said they contract with a private firm to provide ankle monitors, and the county doesn’t have a budget to pay for GPS monitoring fees.