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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Modest’ Jail Fee Evokes Marie Antoinette Tones

CHICAGO (CN) - Anyone arrested in a Chicago suburb must pay a $30 booking fee, regardless of whether they are later found guilty or not, the 7th Circuit ruled.

The village of Woodridge, a wealthy and predominantly white Chicago suburb of 33,000, charges all arrested suspects a $30 booking fee, whether or not they were arrested with probable cause.

Even if that person is later released or found not guilty, there is no way to seek a refund of the money.

Jerry Markadonatos filed a class action against the village, claiming that the $30 booking fee violates arrestees' due process rights.

Since police had cause to arrest Markadonatos for theft, however, and since he pleaded guilty to the charges against him, a federal judge found that he lacked standing to challenge the imposition of the fee.

A divided three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case Wednesday.

"Mr. Markadonatos' complaint does not implicate a fundamental right," wrote U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller, sitting by designation from Milwaukee. "The $30 fee is extremely modest, and of an amount that does not rise to the level of a fundamental right."

As a procedural matter, "Woodridge's booking fee clearly passes the rational basis test. In imposing the fee, Woodridge hopes to offset the cost of booking arrestees, or at the very least to collect revenue, either of which is a legitimate goal," the majority opinion continues. "The collection of $30 from each for-cause arrestee is clearly rationally related to that goal, seeing as it takes money to cover the administrative costs of booking from the individuals whose actions caused the cost to begin with."

Writing in dissent, Judge David Hamilton complained that the "criminal fee" indiscriminately applied to guilty and not-guilty suspects.

"American courts have never before even suggested that mere probable cause is a sufficient basis for imposing a criminal fine - even a modest one - without the further procedural protections of our criminal justice system. Yet that is the effect of the majority's decision," Hamilton wrote (italics in original).

Concurring with the majority opinion, Judge Diane Sykes clarified that the decision hinged on Markadonatos' lack of standing to substantively challenge the booking fee.

"In his dissent, Judge Hamilton maintains that the booking fee is in substance a criminal fine and must 'await the outcome of a criminal prosecution,'" Sykes wrote. "That's a claim about the content of the booking-fee ordinance - a substantive challenge to the Village's policy decision to apply the fee to every arrested person rather than just to those who are charged with and found guilty of a crime. It may be a good claim, but Markadonatos has no standing to make it because he was arrested on probable cause, charged with a crime, and pleaded guilty as charged." (Italics in original.)

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