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Paying for Court

2014 was a pivotal year for courts in the state of Michigan. Until that year, local court administrators were charging those convicted in their systems with hefty "court costs"—essentially, fees to help cover the costs of operating the courts, to include building maintenance fees and salaries of court staff members.

If you are convicted of intoxicated driving in Michigan, the penalties could include substantial monetary fines and court costs. But what exactly are you paying for when you are ordered to pay these "court costs?" Learn more here.

The Costs of the Court System

Public court systems cost money to operate. There are salaries to be paid among the judges, prosecutors, clerks, and numerous other staff members that serve in the court system, and funding is also needed to support the many programs that the court operates, such as veterans' court and drug court.

One major source of revenue for these expenditures is the court costs that criminal defendants are required to pay upon conviction.

Court Costs Challenged

Local court administrators continued to hit convicts with substantial charges—sometimes up to $1,600—until the practice was challenged in the 2014 case ofPeople v. Cunningham. This case made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ultimately decided that local courts did not have the authority to impose costs to convicts as they saw fit; rather, local courts could only impose costs that were specifically set forth by statute.

Legality of Court Costs in Michigan

It did not take long for Michigan lawmakers to respond to this ruling. Later that same year, House Bill 5785 swiftly passed through both chambers of the Michigan legislature, thereby making it legal for local courts to impose any "reasonable" costs to people convicted in their systems—including salaries, maintenance fees, and operation costs.

Until the passage of House Bill 5785 in 2014, Michigan courts were only allowed to charge defendants with costs that had been incurred from prosecuting their particular cases. For example, the costs of any emergency responders or investigators that had worked on the case could be recouped through the defendant's court costs.

However, HB 5785 made it legal for courts to impose any "reasonable" costs on convicted persons, including expenses for the maintenance and operation of public court facilities, any goods or services needed for the court's operation, and salaries and benefits for court staff.

"Allowing the jail to collect from the convicted creates a potential conflict of interest, not unlike that which exists in civil forfeiture law," says Michigan defense attorney Patrick Barone.

HB 5785 is set to expire in 2017, at which time Michigan lawmakers will once again take up the debate over court costs.

Client Reviews
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Patrick Barone is the ONLY choice for DUI defense. He was realistic from the start and made it a point to look at my case before taking my money. As a business owner, when I think of attorneys, I think of the "shark infested waters. Patrick is a shark alright, but his prey is not the client; it's justice for his client. Ten stars Patrick!! Chris F.
★★★★★
Attorney Patrick Barone was very helpful and helped me understand the charge and sentence absolutely clearly. He also guided me through step by step helping me form a statement. His instructions were clear and detailed. It was obvious he cared about me understanding every important detail within my case. I would absolutely recommend this defense firm to anyone in need. Aaron B.
★★★★★
The Barone Defense Firm is the firm I recommend. They are truly concerned about the person, not just the legal issue, but the person as well. They are the most knowledgeable defense firm that I am aware of, having actually written the book on DWI Defense. If you are faced with a DWI you will not find a more professional and skilled law firm. But, most importantly, they care about how the accused individual recovers his or her life when the case is complete. Very remarkable group of lawyers. William H.