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Even the Innocent Could Be Charged A Fee For Getting Arrested

February 14, 2017, on Criminal Defense Articles |

In the United States, you should not be deprived of your property without due process of the law. Before government authorities can impose fines or other penalties on you, you should be given the chance to defend yourself with the help of Albany criminal defense attorneys. You are innocent until proved guilty, and the state or federal government should not be penalizing you financially when you have done nothing wrong.

Unfortunately, people are facing financial penalties even in situations where they have not been found to have violated any laws. The New York Times explains the problems of innocent people being charged fees because they got arrested. The constitutionality of this practice is being challenged, and the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to take a case addressing the nationwide practice of imposing fines and fees on people who end up entangled in the criminal justice system.

Fees for Arrest Could Be Unconstitutional

According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court is considering whether to hear a case arising from the arrest of a man who was accused of disorderly conduct. The man had $46 in his pockets at the time of his arrest.  The man was incarcerated for two days before he was released and the charges against him were dismissed. When he was released, he was given a debit card instead of his $46.

The debit card contained only $21 of his $46. A total of $25 of his money had been charged for “booking fees.” In order to get the $21 off the debit card, he also had to pay another $7.25 in fees for withdrawals.  

A lawsuit was filed claiming the practice of taking money for a booking fee like this was unconstitutional. The case made its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, where a lawyer for the county indicated that it is possible for people to get their booking fees and other money back if they go through an appropriate legal process and provide evidence they were not found guilty. Unfortunately, many people do not understand the process or it would take too much money and effort to complete the process, so they just give up and lose out on what was taken.

Examples like this one where people are subject to excessive and potentially unconstitutional fines and fees are common, and the Supreme Court is already scheduled to hear the case of Nelson v. Colorado, which involves a challenge to a different law making it more difficult for defendants with overturned convictions to get restitution costs and fines repaid to them. The court is considering whether to also hear this additional case to address the issue of booking fees taken from parties who were not convicted of any offenses.

It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court decides to take the case addressing the Constitutionality of imposing fees and fines for an arrest without conviction, and it is unclear exactly what the court will decide if it does take the case.  Regardless of the decision, it is important for anyone who becomes involved with the criminal justice system to fight abuses within that system. The criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC can provide assistance to those who need help protecting their rights.

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