- Associated Press - Monday, December 11, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Two people arrested while demonstrating against GOP policies last year in the North Carolina Legislative Building are using the appeal of their trespassing convictions to challenge court fees their lawyer argues are unconstitutional.

The attorney for Carol Anderson and Dale Herman filed a motion Monday in Wake County Superior Court urging a judge to overturn the costs they were ordered to pay as part of their lower-court convictions.

The minimum $178 cost for a convicted defendant in District Court is more than four times the amount in the mid-1990s, the defendants’ lawyer, Scott Holmes, said in a motion .

Holmes wrote the “clear proceeds” of these fees related to the state’s criminal laws should be “used exclusively for maintaining free public schools” as the state constitution requires, and not to cover the overhead costs of prosecuting defendants. Some fees currently are earmarked for court operations, technology and law enforcement retirement benefits.

Outside legal groups that helped fashion the constitutional challenge say the fees can soar quickly - the motion cites additional fees ranging from $2 to $600 that Holmes contends are unlawful. They disproportionally hurt low-income people in the criminal justice system, who often can’t pay and stay behind bars, the groups said.

“North Carolina’s excessive court costs have created modern-day debtors’ prisons that keep people in jail simply for being poor and have a devastating impact on communities across the state,” said Cristina Becker with the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU and Southern Coalition for Social Justice are urging other attorneys to file similar motions and have offer a legal template.

State law allows judges to waive the fees for indigent defendants. A law taking effect this month requires state agencies that receive a portion of these fees to be given notice of a potential waiver before a judge can carry it out.

About 1,000 people have been arrested during nonviolent “Moral Monday” legislative protests since 2013.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide