A husband and wife in Alabama claim that they have been caught in a years-long legal nightmare after being pulled over for a minor traffic infraction back in 2010.
Tim Fugatt, a church music pastor, was on his way home from visiting his terminally ill son at the time when he was issued a ticket for an expired license plate, according to the Daily Mail.
His wife, Kristy, also had two traffic violations, leading the couple to be called to the Childersburg Municipal Court in Childersburg, Alabama. A judge found them not guilty after they explained their dying son’s plight, but that was only the beginning of their legal battle.
Despite being cleared of guilt, the judge ordered the Fugatt family to pay $500 in court fees, but considering that the mother and father were spending so much time at the hospital with their son, Tim Fugatt said he was unable to work and didn’t have the money to pay the bill.
Their son, Cole, passed away not long after in 2011 and the family subsequently lost its home to foreclosure.
After time went by and the $500 went unpaid, the case was turned over to a private collector. That company — Judicial Corrections Services — reportedly began threatening Tim and Kristy Fugatt.
“They would just plain out say, you know, ‘If — if you can’t pay then they’ll issue you a warrant for your arrest,'” Tim Fugatt told PBS Newshour earlier this year.
And he said that’s exactly what happened. When he and his wife couldn’t pay the fine and missed a court date, they were arrested and held for a few hours — until a relative showed up and paid a portion of the fine.
“I felt completely like a criminal. I mean I didn’t sell drugs. I didn’t break into anyone’s home,” Fugatt said. “I didn’t kill anybody. I had an expired tag.”
Now, Fugatt and his wife have joined a lawsuit against Judicial Corrections Services and Childersburg, claiming that jailing people who can’t pay their fines is unconstitutional.
While they only owed $500, they claim to have paid at least $1,300 to Childersburg, which doesn’t include monthly fees that were added over time; they also say they still owe money, but haven’t heard from Judicial Correction Services since the lawsuit was filed.
(H/T: Daily Mail)