Sarah Boaz was taken from her home in handcuffs, hauled to the city jail in North Richland Hills, Texas, and strip searched by police. Her crime? She had run a stop sign in August, got ticketed and forgot to pay it.
The Dallas area resident was treated like a dangerous criminal, even though she had done something any American could have done. Boaz’s ordeal began on October 23 when she came home to find the city marshal waiting for her. The marshal arrested her, handcuffed her and took her to the city jail.
At the jail Boaz was forced to remove all of her clothing and undergo a strip search by a female detention officer. She was then dressed in a jumpsuit like a criminal and placed in a cell. To get her out of jail, Boaz’s family had to post bail.
Boaz could not believe what was happening to her until she heard a detention officer say, “I’m going to need you to undress. I’m going to need you to stand against the wall.”
The detention officer watched while Boaz took off her clothes, and then searched her. The North Richland Hills Police contend that Boaz was not strip searched — because she took her own clothes off.
Police claim the stripping of clothes is standard procedure at the jail. There was no indication that police thought Boaz was a criminal or a danger to officers or other inmates. The police also claim that the detention officer never touched Boaz.
“They have to remove all clothing and are given a jump suit,” a North Richland Hills Police email stated. “The officer searches their clothes, at no time does the officer touch them.”
Said Boaz, “I guess it was just frustrating to me, that a bill I pay a month late, I end up in jail for,” Boaz told a Dallas TV station. City officials said they had twice mailed Boaz requests to pay the ticket. Boaz claims that they she never received those letters.
Threat Of Jail Used To Collect Fines
It is not clear why authorities in North Richland Hills went to all the trouble of issuing a bench warrant for a woman who ran a stop sign. One possibility: an attempt to raise revenue for the city by enforcing traffic fines.
Nor is it clear that Boaz’s arrest was legal. Attorney Jason Smith told Dallas TV station Channel 11 that there is nothing in the law that mandates jail time for traffic tickets.
The city of North Richland Hills apparently uses its jail as a revenue collection mechanism. People that don’t pay tickets are arrested and brought to the jail, and then given the chance to pay their fines. If they pay the fines they are booked, photographed and released.
“The constitution doesn’t keep the government or government officials from using common sense. Unfortunately, some police officers, some governments get overly aggressive because they want that ticket revenue,” Smith said.
Persons are only released if they are able to pay the entire fine. Those without the money have to sit in jail until they get the money or raise bail.
It looks like authorities in North Richland Hills have found a disturbing new way to collect money from citizens.