Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Court fees rise sharply under new law

In tough economic times, states are looking everywhere for money.

Starting today, Florida plans to tap a sustainable resource: criminals.

A new state law imposes new court fees and increases for criminal offenses as well as other basic court-related procedures.

People convicted of drunken driving will now pay up to $1,000 more. State attorneys and public defenders will charge $100 each to cover the cost of prosecuting and defending a felony crime.

And speeders will pay at least $17.50 more for each infraction.

Even folks who live on the right side of the law will feel the pinch.

Filing for a divorce? Settling an estate? Evicting a tenant? Bring more money. Most civil court actions cost more.

These fees are just a sampling of more than 100 court-related charges increasing to help a judicial system strapped for cash.

The hikes, which come at a time when few can afford to pay more, raised the eyebrows of Denise Corona, a 52-year-old server from Spring Hill.

"It's a very bad time for be asking for more," she said. "It seems to me like it's easy money to catch speeders."

But more important, it represents a controversial shift toward a self-sustaining court system. And one likely to garner little backlash from a public unsympathetic to lawbreakers.

"It's a part of everyday life now," said Lily Kircher, a 48-year-old Spring Hill accountant. "It's just one of those things — you just have to pay it."

But the broader trend alarms many in the court system, including Bob Dillinger, who represents indigent clients as the Pinellas-Pasco public defender.

"They think they can run the criminal justice system on the backs of poor people, but it's not going to work," he said.

A point of major contention is the new cost-of-prosecution and cost-of-defense fees that apply to anyone charged with a crime. The fees apply to each case, so a person charged with passing 10 worthless checks could face up to $2,000 in fees from attorneys, on top of fines or victim restitution.

The state estimates it will be able to collect only about 20 percent of these fees.

"That's one of the reasons people are criminals in the first place — because they don't have the money," said Brad King, the state attorney in the 5th Judicial Circuit.

State Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who shepherded the bill through the Legislature this year, said raising fees was necessary because some had not been adjusted in years, if not decades.

"If you use the court system, you're going to pay a little more toward your share of the cost," he said.

Crist, the Senate's criminal justice budget chairman, doesn't buy the talk coming from some prosecutors and public defenders.

"There's been a lot of rhetoric, and most of it's false or grossly distorted," Crist said. "They are trying to create a panic."

The augmented fees kept court-related agencies from the much deeper budget cuts felt by other state agencies, he said.

John Frank can be reached at or (352) 754-6114.

Fast facts

A sample of court fee increases

• Filing for divorce: $363 to $408

• Summary administration of estates $1,000 or more: $205 to $230

• Removal of tenant: $80 to $270

• Filing a circuit civil case: $255 to $300

• Filing a small claim (more
than $2,500): $255 to $300

New fees

• Filing a cross- or counter-claim: $295

• Issuing a subpoena: $10 (each)

• Cost of prosecution: $50 misdemeanor, $100 felony

• Cost of defense from court-appointed attorney: $50 misdemeanor, $100 felony

Source: Florida law Ch. 2008-111

Crimes don't pay

Those charged with crimes who use court-appointed attorneys will now pay hefty sums if convicted. For example, consider these mandatory minimum fines in Pinellas:

• Driving under the influence: $968 at first offense to $2,543 at third offense

• Misdemeanors: $425 to $800

• Felonies: $475-plus

Source: 6th Judicial Circuit Court Counsel

Court fees rise sharply under new law 06/30/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 4, 2008 11:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott

  2. Forecast: Return of summertime pattern means afternoon storms on tap for Tampa Bay


    As if Memorial Day wasn't enough of a signal that summer truly is upon us, this week's forecast across the Tampa Bay area will be a stark reminder.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Tiger Woods says medication, not alcohol, led to DUI arrest in Florida

    Public Safety

    Players arriving for a tournament this week at Muirfield Village might notice a framed picture of Tiger Woods with a resplendent smile and bright red shirt. He's posed there with the trophy, an image that embodies the excitement he once brought to golf.

    This image provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Monday, May 29, 2017, shows Tiger Woods. Police in Florida say Tiger Woods was been arrested for DUI.  [Palm Beach County Sheriff's office via AP]
  4. Manuel Noriega, Panamanian strongman toppled in U.S. invasion, dies at 83


    Gen. Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian strongman and onetime American ally who was toppled from power in a 1989 U.S. invasion and who spent more than two decades imprisoned on drug dealing and conspiracy convictions, died late Monday. He was most likely 83.

    Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega waves to newsmen after a state council meeting, at the presidential palace in Panama City, where they announced the new president of the republic in 1989. Panama's ex-dictator Noriega died Monday, May 29, 2017, in a hospital in Panama City. He was 83. [Associated Press]
  5. Austin Mahone talks Pitbull, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, his pop evolution and more


    Austin Mahone has vivid memories from his childhood visits to see his grandparents in Tampa Bay.