Arrest booking fees have become a controversial topic as the Supreme Court considers whether to take up a Minnesota case involving their collection.
The court will soon weigh whether to hear a case involving Corey Statham, a man who was forced to fork over a $25 fee after being arrested for disorderly conduct in Ramsey County, Minnesota, The New York Times reported.
That may not sound all that bad until you consider that Statham had just $46 to his name, he was released after two days, and the charges against him were later dismissed.
Though the county returned the remaining $21 to Statham on a debit card, it cost him another $7.25 in fees just to access his money.
Arrest booking or other fees are not unique to Statham's case or to Ramsey County. According to The Times, "Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Missouri, 'city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity,' a Justice Department report found last year."
The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate case involving a challenge to a Colorado law "that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions were overturned to obtain refunds of fines and restitution, often amounting to thousands of dollars," according to The Times.
At issue in both cases is a person's right to due process.
In Minnesota, a person can get their $25 booking fee back if they provide evidence proving their innocence.
"Ramsey County confiscates $25 from every person its police arrest regardless of whether those people are guilty or innocent and then forces presumptively innocent arrestees to navigate a bureaucratic obstacle course in order to get their money back," Michael A. Carvin, Statham's attorney, wrote in a Supreme Court brief. "The question presented is therefore: Whether due process allows governments to confiscate money from innocent people on the basis of an arrest and then force those people to prove that they are entitled to have their money returned."
The Colorado case, Nelson v. Colorado, will be heard January 9, while the Supreme Court has ordered Ramsey County to file a brief in the Minnesota case, Mickelson v. County of Ramsey, by January 13.
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