Indio and Coachella are charging residents thousands in legal fees for minor crimes, claims lawsuit

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Indio and Coachella claiming the cities have been citing residents for seemingly minor crimes, then forcing them to pay thousands of dollars for the own prosecution.

The Desert Sun reports on the suit, filed by 79-year-old Romana Morales who claims that she was cited when a home she owned was found to have chickens on the property. Morales, who was renting out the home, thought it would be a citation and a quick fix. She pleaded guilty and was fined $75 each for six infractions including the chickens and renting five houses without a business license.

Then, a year later, Morales received a a bill from the City of Indio for $3,000 – including $2,400 in “prosecution fees” – for the law firm of Silver & Wright, which is contracted by the city.

The case was appealed by Morales, but the the city upheld the bill and added another $2,600 payable to Silver & Wright for the cost of defending the appeal, which put Morales on the hook for $5,659.

Morales is represented by the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, libertarian public interest law firm who produced this video about the lawsuit:

If the lawsuit is successful, all convictions from Silver & Wright would be overturned.

Read more about the case in The Desert Sun.