BURLEY, Idaho (AP) - Staying out of jail on probation is expensive, with costs hitting hard for those who are less affluent.
In Idaho, people who can readily pay misdemeanor fines and court costs often get waived through the system if they don’t have prior criminal history or drug and alcohol issues.
But if their wallet doesn’t allow immediate payment, they are sometimes put on probation, though some judges grant extended time to get fees paid.
The cost difference can run nearly $1,000 a year.
The judicial system might favor an affluent offender, who can more easily pay fines and fees and might not have to go to court or on probation, agreed Rick Bollar, Minidoka County magistrate judge.
“There has always been a concern in the judicial system about how much justice can be bought,” Bollar said. “But if creating structure for an individual through probation by means of compliance in maintaining insurance and employment creates disparity, hopefully probation also does some good for that person.”
If the crime was violent, such as domestic violence, or the person has drug or alcohol issues, he goes on supervised probation. In those cases, a judge also can order random drug and alcohol testing twice monthly, which can be adjusted by the probation officer. A person is placed on unsupervised probation if the court simply wants to ensure they stay trouble-free for a set time.
Blaine Cannon, Cassia County’s magistrate judge, disagreed that the system favors the affluent. Other options to probation, he said, are jail time and fines. And while a $1,000 fine will be more of a sacrifice or challenge to someone with less money, everyone must be held accountable for a crime they commit.
“In the old days, if you couldn’t pay the fine, you just went to jail,” Cannon said.
A person sentenced to supervised probation in Mini-Cassia has to pay $60 a month, plus the costs for any drug tests.
“I don’t like having to drug test,” said Francisco Tarin, 22, of Rupert. “I think it’s pretty ridiculous to be put on supervised probation for such a small charge.”
Tarin violated his probation on misdemeanor charges of failure to present identification to officers for liquor and obstruction. He was placed on supervised probation for a year in March for resisting to identify himself to police when they responded to a family dispute.
Tarin said probation costs him about $80 a month, plus the cost of gas to drive to Burley each time he checks in at the probation office.
“It is a hardship. That $80 could go towards a fridge,” he said.
Tarin said he changed his work shift from days to swing shift to accommodate the probation requirements.