Ky. Court of Appeals rules on jail booking fee case

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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) Should jail booking fees apply to inmates who are not convicted on charges against them?

A three judge Kentucky Court of Appeals panel says “yes”.

It’s a case many across the Commonwealth are watching closely.

Every day an inmate is in the Daviess County Jail, they’re charged housing fees along with an initial booking fee.

“There is an extensive amount of resources that goes into housing somebody at the jail, including food, medical, clothing and other factors that go into that,” says Daviess Co. Jailer Art Maglinger.

A three judge panel ruled 2-1 on a Clark County case that the jail can impose fees on a man who was incarcerated for 14 months, but let out after his case was dismissed. Lawyers for David Jones, who was billed for more than $4,000, argued state law did not permit fees when all charges were dismissed. Maglinger says while the county rarely collects all fees owed, the ruling recognizes a county’s authority to recoup costs of housing prisoners.

“It is a county issue because most jails are funded by taxpayers, or at least a portion by subsidy from taxpayers,” says Maglinger.

Scott West of the Kentucky Department Of Public Advocacy, who was not involved in the case, says Judge Sara Combs, the dissenting vote in the case, was right when she cited state law that only a sentencing court can impose those fees.

“We agree that it should have been interpreted to mean that if the person was found guilty of something before the fees can be assessed,” says West.

We reached our to the lawyers representing Jones for comment, but our calls were not returned.

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(This story was originally published on February 10, 2020)

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