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Cleared Suspects to Seek Arrest Refunds as a Class

(CN) - A federal judge granted class certification in a case against a suburb of Chicago that charges processing fees against suspects who come under arrest, regardless of whether the individual is later found innocent.

Robert Bailiff, a resident of Downers Grover, Ill., was arrested and charged with domestic battery in May 2009. At that time, he had to pay an administrative fee of $30.

The village claimed that the fee was to "defray some of the cost of processing and booking an arrestee," and that the fee covered "about half of the village's cost."

When Bailiff's case was dismissed in January 2011, however, he was not refunded his $30. In May 2011, he filed a class action against Downers Grove because the ordinance has no provision for reimbursement, allegedly in violation of the due process clause.

While Bailiff initially sought injunctive relief, "the village has confirmed that it stopped imposing the booking fee in response to this lawsuit," court records state.

U.S. District Judge Sheila Finnegan granted Bailiff's motion for class certification last week, with a slight modification to the class definition.

Downers Grove argued that the court should deny class certification because the class definition could include individuals with time-barred claims. But Finnegan managed to address that concern by specifying that the class would include all individuals who were arrested on or after May 18, 2009.

The village also argued that the class includes individuals who were ultimately convicted of their crimes, who "cannot establish, as a matter of law, that their constitutional rights have been violated."

Finnegan disagreed. "The court is not convinced that the putative class 'contains a great many persons who have suffered no injury at the hands of the defendant," Finnegan wrote, citing precedent.

"To the extent it may turn out that convicted class members are not in fact entitled to relief, the court has broad discretion to modify the class definition as appropriate," she concluded.

There were approximately 1,977 arrests in 2008, according to the 2008 Downers Grove Police Department Annual Report.

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