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Out-of-Work Angler Jailed For License Violation in MI

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August 10, 2011

Out-of-Work Angler Jailed For License Violation in MI

By Chad Love

Here's an interesting question: should you be thrown in jail for being too poor to pay a misdemeanor fishing violation? It happened to a Michigan man. Now the ACLU is suing on his behalf on the grounds that failure to pay a misdemeanor fine is, in essence, a return to the debtor's prison era.

From this story on credit.com:  
Kyle Dewitt spent three days in jail because he was too poor to pay a fishing fine. Last spring, Dewitt was ticketed and fined $215 for fishing smallmouth bass out of season (Dewitt disputes the charge). But Dewitt, 19 years old with a fiancée and a nine-month-old son, lost his job at a grocery store in 2010 and has been out of work ever since. He couldn’t afford the $215 fine. Instead he offered to pay $100 up front, and repay the rest in a month. But Judge Raymond Voet of Ionia, Mich., refused. The judge sentenced Dewitt to three days in jail. The American Civil Liberties Union paid to break Dewitt out. Now the group is suing on behalf of Dewitt and four others in Michigan who were jailed because they were too poor to pay misdemeanor fines. “Long thought to be a relic of the 19th century, debtors’ prisons are still alive and well in Michigan,” Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU, said in a press release. “Jailing our clients because they are poor is not only unconstitutional, it’s unconscionable and a shameful waste of resources.” 


Using a rule called “pay or stay,” judges in Michigan can decide to keep people in jail who have been found guilty of misdemeanors but who cannot afford to pay their fines. (Dewitt’s case is an anomaly, since he says he wasn’t fishing out of season, and he was never found guilty by a jury.)

Thoughts? Reaction?

Comments (15)

Top Rated
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from countryboyhunter wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Wait, so he has to pay a fine or go to jail, but HE HASNT BEEN FOUND GUILTY!? Somethings not right with that sentence.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

He hasn't been found guilty by a jury. You don't have the right to a jury trial on misdemeanor charges.

Regardless, this is ridiculous. How does the state expect him to pay the fine if he is in jail?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Arlo269 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Gotta love our legal system. A friend of mine stole our credit cards and ran up an enormous bill and got caught. How many days did he spend in jail??????? Zero!! But by God don't get caught supposedly fishing out of season. What a JOKE!! Wonder what the Officer who ticketed him is saying right now....The law is the law or some crap like that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

He made a perfectly reasonable offer to pay. What's with this judge? Or is there more to this story than what meets the eye?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Riverrat57 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Am I missing something here? How is it that a person can be "ticketed and fined for fishing smallmouth bass out of season". Does this mean that when Smallmouth bass are out of season, you can't fish at all? If you're fishing for Largemouth bass and happen to catch a Smallmouth & release it, you've broken the law? I don't understand. Can someone clarify?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hockey86 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

So being broke makes it ok to break the law?! This guy got what he deserves. Stupid is not a disability.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Does the judge have no sense of fiscal responsibility?
Instead of getting a down payment, and the rest later, the judge is wasting public money paying to bang this guy up! Crazy

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from ADDohman wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

even if he was fishing out of season and since he was to poor to pay a fine, does that mean he was to poor for his family to buy food? cause one thing if i had to i would fish illegally just to feed my family. i bet anyone would do the same to make sure that they did not starve

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ADDohman wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

even if he was fishing out of season and since he was to poor to pay a fine, does that mean he was to poor for his family to buy food? cause one thing if i had to i would fish illegally just to feed my family. i bet anyone would do the same to make sure that they did not starve

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from crosbychief wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

OK- all we know on this is what this article states are "facts"- that is iffy at best, knowing how little most people, including reporters, know about the criminal justice system. A, he is indeed entitled to a trial if he requests one. B, if he has been fined, he either pled "guilty" or "no contest" or was convicted in a trial. C, almost all misdemeanor offenses include language of "$100 fine or 10 days in jail" or something similar. Next- he is 19, has a child out of wedlock- and no job? In Ionia, MI? Check the want ads right now there and I bet there are clerk positions at gas stations, Wal-mart, Meijer, etc., posted there and begging for bodies. Perhaps he has a prior record...conservation related, or otherwise...in that case, his prior convictions have doomed him, and that, if true, is his own fault. There is far more to this story than what this writer chose to either learn, or share....because it is far easier for a media writer to pick a scab on a story to sell the news than tell a complete story in which someone ended up getting what he deserved. C'mon, readers, wise up.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Timothy Pifher wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

OK, besides the fact that the guy is stupid.
He wasn't found guilty because he admitted to the ticket. Just like when you just pay a speeding ticket.
Next is the old adage, if you can't afford the fine don't do the crime.
There is no cure for Stupid.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tc505 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

sounds like he really got hold of a bad judge. he offered in good faith to pay but the judge wouldn't accept it, but something does sound funky on this one. years ago a man here was laid off for several months and couldn't afford the hunting license but when he explained it to the game warden he was given the man's name and address and was told that as soon as he got his license to come by and show him. may not have hurt that the guy was holding a gun at the time he was talking but not pointing it in any unsafe direction. of course we have some really crappy game wardens here as well but they are a bit far and few between.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from action1250 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Bet Jeff Foilles wishes he had only been caught for fishing out of season!
It does seem extreme for the Judge to rule this way. Maybe the guy caught the Judge's prize small mouth and he got pissed!
Also, the warden that wrote the ticket should get some lessons in understanding and just told him to put the fish back (dead or alive)or let him have them and if he got caught again he would be cited.
Still a lot of info we don't know so "the jury is still out"!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

well, he could of fed himself with the fish I've had to go fishing just for food until I got a paying job. but it should be dine in the legal sence.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 2 years 32 weeks ago

I have to disagree somewhat with crosbychief about the actual merits of the case. I suspect that maybe the rest of the speculation about his current situation however may be spot on.
The ACLU generally does not take on cases without merit, and ones that they don't think they can win. I am not much of a supporter of the ACLU, but I do know that they review a case pretty well before they decide to take it.
Also Greenhead just for FYI; in most states if convicted of a misdemeanor in district court one can file an appeal to superior court in which guilt is decided by a jury.
I find it interesting that people can default on $200,000 plus mortgages and walk away yet someone is sent to the clink for a ten dollar bass. It will cost more to incarcerate him than the fine is worth.
Well, I guess one can still say "By golly we sure taught him a lesson!"

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Sb Wacker wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Does the judge have no sense of fiscal responsibility?
Instead of getting a down payment, and the rest later, the judge is wasting public money paying to bang this guy up! Crazy

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Arlo269 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Gotta love our legal system. A friend of mine stole our credit cards and ran up an enormous bill and got caught. How many days did he spend in jail??????? Zero!! But by God don't get caught supposedly fishing out of season. What a JOKE!! Wonder what the Officer who ticketed him is saying right now....The law is the law or some crap like that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

He made a perfectly reasonable offer to pay. What's with this judge? Or is there more to this story than what meets the eye?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from countryboyhunter wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Wait, so he has to pay a fine or go to jail, but HE HASNT BEEN FOUND GUILTY!? Somethings not right with that sentence.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Riverrat57 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Am I missing something here? How is it that a person can be "ticketed and fined for fishing smallmouth bass out of season". Does this mean that when Smallmouth bass are out of season, you can't fish at all? If you're fishing for Largemouth bass and happen to catch a Smallmouth & release it, you've broken the law? I don't understand. Can someone clarify?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ADDohman wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

even if he was fishing out of season and since he was to poor to pay a fine, does that mean he was to poor for his family to buy food? cause one thing if i had to i would fish illegally just to feed my family. i bet anyone would do the same to make sure that they did not starve

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ADDohman wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

even if he was fishing out of season and since he was to poor to pay a fine, does that mean he was to poor for his family to buy food? cause one thing if i had to i would fish illegally just to feed my family. i bet anyone would do the same to make sure that they did not starve

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tc505 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

sounds like he really got hold of a bad judge. he offered in good faith to pay but the judge wouldn't accept it, but something does sound funky on this one. years ago a man here was laid off for several months and couldn't afford the hunting license but when he explained it to the game warden he was given the man's name and address and was told that as soon as he got his license to come by and show him. may not have hurt that the guy was holding a gun at the time he was talking but not pointing it in any unsafe direction. of course we have some really crappy game wardens here as well but they are a bit far and few between.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

He hasn't been found guilty by a jury. You don't have the right to a jury trial on misdemeanor charges.

Regardless, this is ridiculous. How does the state expect him to pay the fine if he is in jail?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Timothy Pifher wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

OK, besides the fact that the guy is stupid.
He wasn't found guilty because he admitted to the ticket. Just like when you just pay a speeding ticket.
Next is the old adage, if you can't afford the fine don't do the crime.
There is no cure for Stupid.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from action1250 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Bet Jeff Foilles wishes he had only been caught for fishing out of season!
It does seem extreme for the Judge to rule this way. Maybe the guy caught the Judge's prize small mouth and he got pissed!
Also, the warden that wrote the ticket should get some lessons in understanding and just told him to put the fish back (dead or alive)or let him have them and if he got caught again he would be cited.
Still a lot of info we don't know so "the jury is still out"!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

well, he could of fed himself with the fish I've had to go fishing just for food until I got a paying job. but it should be dine in the legal sence.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 2 years 32 weeks ago

I have to disagree somewhat with crosbychief about the actual merits of the case. I suspect that maybe the rest of the speculation about his current situation however may be spot on.
The ACLU generally does not take on cases without merit, and ones that they don't think they can win. I am not much of a supporter of the ACLU, but I do know that they review a case pretty well before they decide to take it.
Also Greenhead just for FYI; in most states if convicted of a misdemeanor in district court one can file an appeal to superior court in which guilt is decided by a jury.
I find it interesting that people can default on $200,000 plus mortgages and walk away yet someone is sent to the clink for a ten dollar bass. It will cost more to incarcerate him than the fine is worth.
Well, I guess one can still say "By golly we sure taught him a lesson!"

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hockey86 wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

So being broke makes it ok to break the law?! This guy got what he deserves. Stupid is not a disability.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from crosbychief wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

OK- all we know on this is what this article states are "facts"- that is iffy at best, knowing how little most people, including reporters, know about the criminal justice system. A, he is indeed entitled to a trial if he requests one. B, if he has been fined, he either pled "guilty" or "no contest" or was convicted in a trial. C, almost all misdemeanor offenses include language of "$100 fine or 10 days in jail" or something similar. Next- he is 19, has a child out of wedlock- and no job? In Ionia, MI? Check the want ads right now there and I bet there are clerk positions at gas stations, Wal-mart, Meijer, etc., posted there and begging for bodies. Perhaps he has a prior record...conservation related, or otherwise...in that case, his prior convictions have doomed him, and that, if true, is his own fault. There is far more to this story than what this writer chose to either learn, or share....because it is far easier for a media writer to pick a scab on a story to sell the news than tell a complete story in which someone ended up getting what he deserved. C'mon, readers, wise up.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

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