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. PolitiFact Florida checks out Rick Baker's talking point about the growth of St. Petersburg's A-rated schools


    Rick Baker has used mailers, forums and social media to relay one big message in his campaign for St. Petersburg mayor: Schools in St. Petersburg saw drastic improvements when he was mayor from 2001 to 2010.

    Rick Baker, candidate for St. Petersburg mayor
  2. Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelly talks family, songwriting and more before Tampa show

    Music & Concerts

    A while back at the Grammys, Charles Kelley found himself in the same room as Paul McCartney. The Lady Antebellum singer, a seven-time Grammy winner in his own right, couldn't work up the courage to say hello.

    Lady Antebellum perform at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday. Credit: Eric Ray Davidson
  3. Clearwater suspect due in court after 9 die in sweltering San Antonio truck


    SAN ANTONIO — Nine people are dead and the death toll could rise after emergency crews pulled dozens of people from a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, victims of what officials said was an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.

    San Antonio police officers investigate the scene where eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer loaded with at least 30 others outside a Walmart store in stifling summer heat in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case, Sunday, July 23, 2017, in San Antonio. [Associated Press]
  4. What you need to know for Monday, July 24


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    At 1.2 million gallons, the house of Harry Barkett in South Tampa used more water than anyone else in the Tampa Bay region between Jan. 1 and May 31 of this year, when Tampa was in a severe drought. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  5. Discovering the true meaning of Black Forest cake in the German region itself


    The first time I had a taste of the Black Forest, it wasn't by way of cake.

    Black Forest Cake in Germany was granted legally protected status in 2013. It must use the gateau’s original ingredients, including kirsch, a brandy made from fermented sour cherries from the region.