Counties: Don’t Wipe Out Pretrial Cost Recovery

MACo Legislative Director Natasha Mehu submitted written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in opposition to House Bill 480, “Criminal Procedure – Pretrial Release – Fees.” This would prohibit local jails from placing fees on any pretrial services. Many of these fees are charged simply to compensate for costs on providing these services and no profits are made off of the fees imposed. This prohibition would potentially undermine and imperil developing pretrial service programs.

From MACo Testimony:

Counties understand the intent to ensure defendants are not overly burdened with the costs of criminal justice, however the State must be mindful not to undercut pretrial programs by broadly removing the ability to recoup some associated costs. Recent and ongoing efforts to expand county pretrial services will likely add to the volume of pretrial participants and subsequently, the costs and resources associated with providing those services.

It is important to note that pretrial services do not always include fees, and when fees are assessed they frequently merely help to recoup some share of actual service costs. They are not imposed for profit. Additionally, there are often requirements for the fees to be waived if a defendant is indigent and cannot afford to pay.

A broad prohibition on payment for pretrial services that does not account for the anticipated increase in the volume of pretrial participants, a defendant’s ability to pay, or alternative sources of funding may undermine burgeoning county pretrial programs.”

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.