Pay To Play: Seventh Circuit Upholds $30 Booking Fee For All Arrests — Regardless Of Later Acquittal

200px-disneyqueenheartsWoodridge, Illinois, outside of Chicago, has a curious way of meting out justice. You may have a presumption of innocence under the Constitution, but if police arrest you, you still have to pay for the pleasure of the arrest. Starting this year, anyone arrested in a Chicago suburb must pay a $30 booking fee . . . even if they are found innocent.

The village of Woodridge imposes the charge on anyone booked by their small police department. A class action was filed to challenge the booking charge and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. The challenge was brought by Jerry Markadonatos who was arrested and charged with retail theft on January 8, 2011, and taken to jail. He was charged for the booking but never given hearing at which he could challenge the booking fee. Later, a court ordered that Mr. Markadonatos undergo a period of supervision and Markadonatos successfully completed that period of supervised release. As a result, he received an adjudication of “not guilty” on his record.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller, sitting by designation, said that there was simply no fundamental right implicated and that the “$30 fee is extremely modest, and of an amount that does not rise to the level of a fundamental right.” Spoken like someone with a guaranteed salary. For many, $30 is not a small amount and then there is the notion that a citizen pays a penalty for an arrest later found to be invalid or unsupported.

Stadtmueller however insisted that, subject to the rational basis test, the charge is rationally related to the desire “to offset the cost of booking arrestees, or at the very least to collect revenue.” That is an interesting rationale since any charge could be defended as just a simple desire to “collect revenue.”

In concurrence, Judge Sykes emphasized that it all came down to a lack of standing: “the important point for our purposes is that because Markadonatos concedes that he was arrested on probable cause, was charged with retail theft, and pleaded guilty as charged, he has no standing to claim that the booking fee is substantively unconstitutional because it applies to all arrested persons whether or not the arrest was lawful, a charge is filed, or a successful prosecution ensues.” I have long been a critic of standing rules that have been steadily narrowed to bar review of cases. Indeed, as I have discussed in both columns and testimony, standing limits have barred review of flagrantly unconstitutional acts by the government.

In dissent, Judge Hamilton gives a powerful reply to his colleagues:

This should be a simple case. The village’s “booking fee” ordinance is unconstitutional on its face. It takes property from all arrestees—the guilty and the innocent alike—without due process of law. The deprivation occurs at the time of arrest, immediately and finally. It occurs based on only the say-so and perhaps even the whim of one arresting officer. By no stretch of the imagination can that be due process of law. The fee is in substance a criminal fine, modest but a fine nonetheless, and it is imposed regardless of the validity of the arrest and regardless of whether there is any criminal prosecution or what its outcome might be.

Hamilton dismisses the size of the penalty as irrelevant:

Correctly understood, the Mathews v. Eldridge framework requires that any booking fee await the outcome of a criminal prosecution. First, a person’s private interest in his cash, his property, is protected by the Constitution whether the amount is large or small. Second, the risk of erroneous deprivation is in fact very substantial. The pivotal decision that imposes the deprivation is a lone police officer’s decision to arrest. A lone police officer’s decision is subject to judicial review even when she writes a mere speeding ticket, let alone imposes a criminal fine. Many people who are arrested are not even charged with crimes, and many charges result in either dismissal or acquittal, so that as many as 30 percent and perhaps nearly 50 percent of arrestees may pay the fee without any criminal conviction.

The dismissal of this action is highly troubling both in the dismissive attitude of the majority opinion and the standing barrier emphasizes in the concurrence. There seems precious little concern by the two judges over the implications of their ruling in allowing such charges to be imposed by the government.

What do you think?

Kudos: Michael Blott

21 thoughts on “Pay To Play: Seventh Circuit Upholds $30 Booking Fee For All Arrests — Regardless Of Later Acquittal”

  1. Sad how the courts have determined that with regard to the Interstate Commerce element to certain federal crimes, only a de minimis amount need apply (United States v. Elders (?)) . But $30.00 is not sufficient to “rise to the level of a fundamental right” of a citizen.

  2. What Mike A. said. It seems that some people just do not understand how people can “become” poor. Disgusting decision.

  3. Makes as much sense as Asset Forfeiture. We’ve had policing for profit for awhile now, this is just a new angle. You’re welcome.

  4. Certainly this “standing issue” is correctable (though unfortunate I agree) if there was a class action suit then certainly one of the plaintiffs was arrested, charged, and released without charges or acquitted. Then the standing would be allowed and given the dissent, the $30.00 fee would be applicable.

  5. Judge Hamilton is correct. Satisfaction of the right to due process under the Constitution is not determined by the perceived “modesty” of the fee. Indeed, the size of the fee is material only with respect to the degree of outrage it should provoke.

  6. This one needs to go straight to the U.S. Supreme court.

    Stephan Gregory Patterson,……..

  7. When I give my “standing” arguments in the Seventh Circuit I will wear my elevated shoes to make a point. This plaintiff was not the right plaintiff to be bringing this case.

    There is a way for the plaintiff, heretofore defendant, to get even. They have fire hydrants in that town don’t they? Late at night open a few fire hydrants. The water bill incurred by the village will offset the fee he paid previously. I always resort to he Fire Hydrant Reprise when dealing with a town that over charges. And no I don’t live in Palm Beach. That is some other guy.

  8. Wait this is a proper charge…. He was adjudicated…. Then case was dismissed…. It’s not like he didn’t get charged properly for the booking fee….. They are reasonable under the circumstances…..

    No if the guy was never charged or found not guilty or acquitted…. Then I think it would be properly ripe for adjudication…..

  9. I wonder if someone not found guilty, not by fulfilling some conditions first as in this case, would have a better chance with the court although the decision on its face is asinine (and yep $30 doesn’t sound like much when you have a nice salary. I venture many who are arrested do not have as easy access to funds as do these judges.

  10. I think the guy is on thin ice since the FACT is that he DID plead guilty. It would be a far different matter if he did not plead guilty and was found innocent, and still had to pay the booking fee. So I agree that the booking fee is outrageous, but they need to get a better case to file to get rid of it. Though it would be better if the judges would take a real look at how this is a wrong ordinance and should be struck down. Hopefully, there will be a better case that will survive the standing objection next time. I agree that there should not need to be a next time.

  11. Poetic justice would be for both judges to experience arrest. What a cesspool the government has become.

  12. DavidM:

    Since we are paying taxes it is rather outrageous. Most tax revenue doesnt go to running government but to social welfare programs and their administration. Since that is the case, more and more local jurisdictions will be doing this sort of thing and the citizenry will be double taxed.

  13. The “modest fee” excuse has no relevance given the government’s tendency to use the “camel’s nose” approach.

  14. This fee is completely outrageous. I don’t even think it should be charged upon the guilty, but for the innocent it amounts to a fine without cause. The animus between authority and citizens grows with actions like this one.

  15. Wow! This is a better revenue producer than any speed-trap-burg ever imagined!! “Standing” has become a way for judges to avoid issues that make them uncomfortable … they just do not want to face public or collegial criticism for deciding a dispute. Here the better approach would have been to deny the plaintiff’s own claim as lacking merit because there was probable cause, there was a guilty plea and a finding of guilt. So he is not a proper representative of a class and wait for a lawsuit by someone who is.

    As a state trial judge I had a more forgiving view of “standing” since I thought my job was to decide cases where there was a real dispute. Courts of appeal are less forgiving. I attribute this to very conservative judges [whether elected or appointed] who wish to cut off access to the judicial system by persons of whose lifestyle or ethnic origin or causes of action [civil rights, mass torts] they just do not approve.

  16. They are lowering the cost of harassing the innocent. This is like speed traps going after out of state cars as they will not come back to fight the ticket.

  17. It’s HORSESHIT! I can buy booking photos for $5, @ most jails. Some jails they’re $2. The court can assess costs if a person is found guilty. If the jail wants to have that added in, it’s mickey mouse, but @ least it’s not horseshit. I say the fee as court costs, if found guilty, should be $5-10.

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