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In Ramsey County, Minnesota, a man was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct. He spent two days in the county jail before the charges were dismissed. He had $46 on him when he was arrested, but the jail charged him $25 for a “booking fee” and the rest was put on a debit card. By the time he took the remaining money off the card, the man had paid $7.25 in withdrawal fees.

Ramsey County Not Only Jail to Charge Fee

Kentucky jails bill inmates for the costs of holding them –- even if the prosecution drops the charges later on. In Colorado, 30 percent of the revenue for five cities comes from fines and traffic tickets. A report from the Justice Department found that officials in Ferguson, Missouri, “consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity.”

Another case will be heard on Jan. 9 by the U.S. Supreme Court. That case is somewhat similar, but involves a Colorado law. This law makes it difficult for defendants to get refunds of restitution and fines after their convictions were overturned. In many cases, the fines and restitution amounted to thousands of dollars.

While Ramsey County fees are lower, the issue remains that those who are acquitted, whose charges are dismissed and those who were arrested but never charged with an offense are not getting their “booking fee” returned. In order to even have a chance at getting the “booking fee” returned, the defendant has to present evidence as to why he or she should get the money back.

Debit Card Provided for "Convenience of Inmates"

The debit card is provided because Ramsey County officials believe it would be too difficult for inmates to cash a check.

Ramsey County didn’t file a brief with the Supreme Court, instead taking its chances in front of the justices without presenting their side of the case. However, the Supreme Court didn’t like this and six days later ordered the county to file a brief in response.

Booking Fees for the Poor

For many people, $25 isn’t much money. For others, $25 is almost half a day’s work at the federal minimum wage and the amount the federal food-stamp program allots to feed an adult for a week.

If you have been subjected to paying “booking fees” through the jail for an arrest, it is important to watch this Supreme Court case closely. Your attorney can tell you more about your legal options as well.