Tag Archives: courts

Booking Fees and Incarceration Costs; The Latest Revenue Generation Tools For Money Hungry Governments

The Supreme Court is preparing to consider the legality of a couple of new methods the police and courts have devised to generate revenue for the State. Several states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Kentucky, have begun implementing fees and “incarceration cost” reimbursement charges against those who are arrested as a way to raise money for police and governmental budgets.

Much like their earlier forerunner to policing for profit, asset forfeiture and seizure laws, these fees are not based on a conviction and many times those subjected to them don’t even end up having charges filed against them. Another similarity is that the process for recouping them are either non-existent or so difficult or expensive that it generally makes it not worth the effort and most people simply allow the theft to stand.

Of course, that’s the point, since the policies have nothing to do with justice, but rather are solely intended to raise revenue for the State and its enforcement structures.

Via the New York Times:

Corey Statham had $46 in his pockets when he was arrested in Ramsey County, Minn., and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released two days later, and the charges were dismissed.

But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham’s money as a “booking fee.” It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear Mr. Statham’s challenge to Ramsey County’s fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Mo., “city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity,” a Justice Department report found last year.

An unusual coalition of civil rights organizations, criminal defense lawyers and conservative and libertarian groups have challenged these sorts of policies, saying they confiscate private property without constitutional protections and lock poor people into a cycle of fines, debts and jail.

The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate challenge to a Colorado law that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions were overturned to obtain refunds of fines and restitution, often amounting to thousands of dollars. That case, Nelson v. Colorado, will be argued on Jan. 9.

The Colorado law requires people who want their money back to file a separate lawsuit and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

The sums at issue are smaller in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul. But they are taken from people who have merely been arrested. Some of them will never be charged with a crime. Others, like Mr. Statham, will have the charges against them dismissed. Still others will be tried but acquitted.

It is all the same to the county, which does not return the $25 booking fee even if the arrest does not lead to a conviction. Instead, it requires people like Mr. Statham to submit evidence to prove they are entitled to get their money back.

When the case was argued last year before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul, a lawyer for the county acknowledged that its process was in tension with the presumption of innocence.

“There is some legwork involved,” the lawyer, Jason M. Hiveley said, but noted that it is possible for blameless people to get their $25 back. “They can do it as soon as they have the evidence that they haven’t been found guilty.”

The legwork proved too much for Mr. Statham. He never got his $25 back.

He did get a debit card for the remaining $21. But there was no practical way to extract his cash without paying some kind of fee. Among them: $1.50 a week for “maintenance” of the unwanted card, starting after 36 hours; $2.75 for using an A.T.M. to withdraw money; $3 for transferring the balance to a bank account; and $1.50 for checking the balance.

In its appeals court brief, the county said the debit cards were provided “for the convenience of the inmates,” who might find it hard to cash a check.

Mr. Statham is represented by Michael A. Carvin, a prominent conservative lawyer who has argued Supreme Court caseschallenging the Affordable Care Act and fees charged by public unions.

Mr. Carvin said the county’s motives were not rooted in solicitude for the people it had arrested. “Revenue-starved local governments are increasingly turning toward fees like Ramsey County’s in order to bridge their budgetary gaps,” he wrote in a Supreme Court brief. “But the unilateral decision of a single police officer cannot possibly justify summarily confiscating money.”

“Providing a profit motive to make arrests,” he said, “gives officers an incentive to make improper arrests.”

Obviously, these debit cards with their outrageous fees are anything but convenient. Also, while it’s beside the point from the start, the notion that an arbitrary fee based on no crime having been committed is valid because in the eyes of the courts it is not a large fee represents a unnecessary and undue hardship for many poor people that are barely making it on what they have already.

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Andrew Henderson Meets with Minn. Chief Over Previous Police Intimidation For Filming

Andrew Henderson Police ReportRecently, Ademo posted about an interaction Andrew Henderson, a CopBlocker from the St. Paul area in Minnesota, had with a police officer who had tried to intimidate him because he was filming near a police station. This happened shortly after the St. Paul Police Department held a seat belt enforcement campaign that was really just a thinly veiled opportunity for revenue generation.

Knowing that many police themselves don’t wear seat belts when driving, Andrew decided to go down to a location near the police station and film to see how many he could find disregarding the rule that they had just placed such a heavy emphasis on for regular citizens. Not surprisingly, he had no problem whatsoever spotting officers hypocritically ignoring the seat belt law.

Not long after, an employee of the St. Paul Police Department, Officer Alba-Reyes, drove up to where Henderson was filming. During the interaction between Alba-Reyes and Andrew (which can be viewed in its entirety in the video below), the officer misstates several laws, including that he has a right to detain Henderson for filming and that the public sidewalk is actually private property. He then threatens to arrest him “if he continues trespassing on private property.”

About a month later, Andrew had a meeting with St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith concerning this incident and the behavior of that officer. This included several inconsistencies and omissions within the official police report that was filed by Alba-Reyes. However, it apparently didn’t include an update on the St. Paul Police Department’s investigation into whether public sidewalks are in fact public or private property. (Make sure you check out Andrew’s YouTube channel for lots of great informative videos.)

During my meeting with Chief Tom Smith, I expressed my concerns on my encounter with officer Armando Alba-Reyes while…

Posted by Andrew J Henderson on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Below is Andrews summary of that meeting via a Facebook post:

During my meeting with Chief Tom Smith, I expressed my concerns on my encounter with officer Armando Alba-Reyes while recording police officers from a public sidewalk.

  • Officer Alba-Reyes stated in his report that I was using a “bypod”, which I was not. I do not own or have ever used a bipod. The pictures he took would have proved this.
  • Officer Alba-Reyes seemed to believe that I do not have access to the Saint Paul Police policy manual, though it is publicly available at: http://www.stpaul.gov/DocumentCenter/View/70740.
  • Once I was threatened with arrest if I did not leave, I immediately walked to my vehicle and drove home, and did not continue to film vehicles as officer Alba-Reyes stated in his report, the video can be found here: https://youtu.be/J9P-4kV7Z9k.
  • Officer Alba-Reyes never turned in the pictures he took of me to the Saint Paul Police Department data vault as he is required to under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13, and did not include them in this report.
  • There was a dashcam in the police vehicle as indicated in the report, but officer Alba-Reyes either did not turn it on or decided to not upload the content to the Saint Paul Police Department data vault.

The encounter can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/ONQXJjY_Yfk?t=4m38s (Also embedded below – editor)

Chief Smith understood my concerns, but could not give me answers as to why Officer Alba-Reyes report was not entirely factual or what happened to the photos he took of me.

I encouraged Chief Smith to adopt a policy regarding citizens filming law enforcement officers as recommended by the Department of Justice (http://www.justice.gov/…/spl/documents/Sharp_ltr_5-14-12.pdf), in addition to submitting a couple of policies to him and his staff from other agencies such as the District of Columbia Police Department (https://go.mpdconline.com/GO/GO_304_19.pdf) and the Department of Homeland Security (http://mocek.org/…/2…/06/DHS-FPS-Bulletin-HQ-IB-012-2010.pdf), as well as case law about citizens First Amendment right to document law enforcement personnel engaged in their public duties (http://media.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/10-1764P-01A.pdf), and to better train officers on engagement with those who chronicle police occurrences.

I hope Chief Smith will take this opportunity to transition and advance with this paradigm shift in policing.

Click banner to learn more about filming the police

Click banner to learn more about filming the police

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Reliance on Traffic Ticket Revenue Has Left Nevada Supreme Court Broke

Back in March, Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty warned state legislators that the NV Supreme Court coffers were bare, due to a drop in revenue from traffic tickets. A decrease in the amount of tickets being issued by law enforcement state-wide had left the courts $700k over budget this year and facing another $700k shortage next year, for a $1.4 million total shortfall. In Nevada and other states, the state supreme court is funded by assessment fees added onto the fines for traffic citations.

Hardesty made sure lawmakers knew he wasn’t fooling around with an ominous threat to take everyone’s ball and go home if they didn’t find some way for taxpayers to pay up:

NV Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty

Justice James Hardesty

“If this is not addressed by May 1, the court will not have sufficient cash to operate,” Hardesty said in his testimony to lawmakers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. “I believe the legislature has a constitutional obligation to fund the judicial branch of government. Do you want me to close the judicial branch of government at the state level on May 1?”

As you’ve probably noticed, it’s past May 1st and Nevada still has a functioning Supreme Court. That’s because the state legislature passed NV SB469, which provided $600k in “emergency” funds to hold them over for a little while longer. There are, of course, larger issues beyond an unpredictable budget that are created by the propensity for government agencies and courts to use traffic and other citations as a revenue generation source.

NV Courts Revenue GenerationThe first and most obvious being that it creates a perverse incentive for lawmakers to pass laws based solely for that purpose and for police to enforce laws based on that priority. The reliance on drug seizure funds for local police departments, the huge growth in the War on (Some) Drugs, and the resulting human rights violations that have resulted are well documented at this point.

The less apparent and visible result involves the continued erosion of the premise that cops are here to “protect and serve.” Hardesty himself states that the budget crunch is a result of a change in priorities by police across the state. The Las Vegas Review Journal takes it a step further stating:

“the number of tickets written by law enforcement agencies around the state has been declining steadily, partly because state troopers have focused on violations more likely to lead to crashes…

Part of the reason, police said, is the NHP Strategic Plan’s emphasis on violations that could cause crashes, including distracted driving and driving under the influence. Police also believe enforcement and the Zero Fatalities education program have changed drivers’ behavior, while completion of some major highway projects has made traffic move better.”

When an emphasis on safety over revenue generation and a perceived improvement in driver’s behavior and road conditions is seen as a problem, then that’s actually a problem. Further, when the general population’s interaction with the police and courts trends increasingly toward negative and unnecessary harassment, it doesn’t help the already battered reputations of departments, such as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

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Recently, the entire Las Vegas Constable’s Office was dissolved with one of the bigger reasons behind that being the corruption caused by tying revenue to citations. The biggest scheme consisted of an assessment fee attached to tickets issued to people that didn’t change their car registration within 30 days of moving from another state. A 2012 modification in that law increasing the amount of fines and decreasing the amount of time allowed to change registration, which was itself passed explicitly to increase revenue, also allowed constables to collect a commission on the assessment fee.

The fact that those ticketed had to pay the assessment fee even if they were actually within the allotted 30 days, led to constables spending the majority of their days trolling through parking lots and apartment complexes looking for anyone with an out of state license plate. As you might imagine, it didn’t exactly endear them to new residents or others within the community. Nor did the unauthorized traffic stops that they began making to bring in even more cash.

Revenue Generation Through CitationsAs already noted in a previous post, the Las Vegas Municipal Courts also recently came under fire for their “money hungry” ways. Among those criticisms was that the courts were putting revenue generation before safety by allowing people that were actually a threat and prone to violence to pay fees rather than go to jail. They also were accused of charging excessive fees to non-violent offenders with financial difficulties in order to keep them paying over long periods of time. (See the video below for an illustration of the loan-shark style scam that traffic tickets now represent.)

Not surprisingly, when you make the funding of government dependent on harassing and stealing from the citizens what you end up with is a government whose main function is to find new and worse ways to harass and steal from those citizens. The equally unsurprising aftereffect is to create a citizenry that sees government as nothing, but a den of thieves. When positive behavior is seen as a bad thing because it makes funding that government more difficult, then that assessment of them is pretty valid.

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Las Vegas Metro Cop Joins the Growing List of Police Pedophiles/Rapists

Patrick Taylor Facing Child Porn Charges

Patrick Taylor Facing Child Porn Charges

On Wednesday (May 27, 2015), Patrick Taylor turned himself in on charges involving child pornography, stemming from a March 19th raid on his house after investigations by the LVMPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Internal Affairs Bureau. According to Metro, he is being charged with a single count of possession of child pornography and two counts of distribution of child pornography. In spite of the seriousness of those charges, he has been released without bail after his initial court appearance at the Regional Injustice Center in Las Vegas, which took place Wednesday morning. The only conditions being that he promise not to contact his victim or to access the internet or social media.

Anybody that has been paying attention in recent times undoubtedly has noticed that one of the many crimes on the rise within the ranks of police officers are sex crimes. It’s getting rare when even a week goes by that CopBlock.org isn’t posting a story about a cop being caught using their position to rape or in some other way sexually exploit someone. In fact, this isn’t even the only time in recent history that a Las Vegas cop has been caught, as the LVRJ’s article about this case points out.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Taylor isn’t the first Metro officer to face child porn allegations in recent months. Metro officer James Henry, 37, pleaded guilty in December to one count of possessing a visual presentation depicting sexual conduct of a child. He was sentenced to four years on probation in April. Henry was originally charged with 10 counts of child pornography possession. Prosecutors said several images were found on an online storage account that belonged to him.

The 12-year department veteran was arrested in October after an investigation into child pornography on his Google cloud account. Henry worked as a patrol officer in Metro’s Convention Center Area Command, which includes the Strip.

Michael Kitchen LVMPD Detective Who Assaulted Prostitute

Michael Kitchen LVMPD Detective Who Assaulted Prostitute

In addition, there is the case of the woman, who was sexually assaulted by a Las Vegas court marshal (see video below) and then arrested for reporting it to a judge (that ignored her complaints), a detective, who assaulted the hooker he was visiting (while on duty and driving his police vehicle) after she increased the price on him, and that’s just within Las Vegas in recent times. As you can also see by the quoted LVRJ article above, Taylor’s child porn predecessor, James Henry, only received probabtion for his crimes and exploitation against children. Yet another example of the lack of accountability that these cops have come to expect from the “Justice System” and, no doubt, one of the explanations for this influx of criminals in general within the police departments nationwide.

Sexually assaulted by a Las Vegas Court Martial; then arrested for reporting it:

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St. Paul, MN Police Launch Investigation into if Sidewalks are Public or Private Property

Andrew Henderson

Recently, a post on CopBlock.org detailed how Andrew Henderson, a CopBlock member from St. Paul, Minnesota, was detained and harassed by the police there while he was filming as part of a test to see how many cops actually wore their seatbelts. Andrew had decided to do so after the St. Paul Police Department held a massive campaign to stop and ticket people for not wearing their seatbelts. He wanted to show the hypocrisy of the police, who are well known for not wearing seatbelts themselves, and for whom one of the leading causes of on the job deaths (far exceeding those of violence from suspects) is car accidents.

After he had documented several police cars and the police officers inside, none of whom were actually wearing seat belts, he was subsequently detained, questioned, and forced to show ID by Officer Armando Abla-Reyes. Officer Abla-Reyes incorrectly informed him that he could be detained for filming in public and also incorrectly stated that the sidewalk he was standing on was private property, threatening to arrest Henderson for trespassing, if he didn’t leave the area.

Now according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the massive attention that video caused has prompted the St. Paul Police Department to launch an investigation into whether sidewalks are public property (spoiler: they are):

“It brought up a question: What is public, what is private?” Sgt. Paul Paulos, a St. Paul police spokesman, said Wednesday. “What we’ll also do is reach out to the city attorney’s office to get a finer definition…”

City Attorney Samuel Clark said Wednesday that his office is working with the police department “to clarify the rights of way applicable to the sidewalks around the public-safety buildings in the area…”

Paulos said Wednesday the department will provide more instruction to officers about the area around the police department, and what is public and what is private.

Minnesota Police Public Sidewalk Private Property

None of those arrows are pointing at private property.

So, they’re going to get to the bottom of that thing the Supreme Court already decided decades ago. In the meantime, there’s a lot of hyperbole from the head of the police union about how much police are under fire these days and how it’s a reasonable threat worthy of detaining someone for filming the police or public buildings. However, as already stated the leading cause of on duty deaths for police, by far, are car accidents and, contrary to the other blatant lie in the article that “99.9%” cops wear their seatbelts, the fact that police often don’t wear them is a big contributor to that. Of course, if they weren’t out generating revenue by giving other people tickets for that very same behavior, that would be their problem.

Hopefully, they’ll get that whole public/private thing figured out soon, though. That way they join the rest of us in the 21st century.

Andrew Henderson’s original video:

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