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Why you may be entitled to a refund for your jail fees

In 2000, Kentucky passed a pay-to-stay law, which enables jails to take money from inmates when they are first admitted and charge them a daily “booking fee” fee for their stay—up to $50 per day. Since then, this law has been applied to all inmates, regardless of whether or not they are found guilty. One inmate recently spent 14 months in jail before his charges were dropped. When he was released, he was met with a bill for $4,000 to cover the costs of his stay.

This case has sparked a class action lawsuit in Kentucky, which claims it is unconstitutional to charge jail fees to innocent people. If victorious, this case could not only reshape the application of jail booking fees in the future, it could also mean that thousands of former inmates who were found innocent would be eligible for reimbursement of their jail fees.

The Kentucky lawsuit has support at the federal level. A similar case in Colorado—which also has a pay-to-stay law—recently went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court’s opinion, delivered earlier this year, states that Colorado’s actions treat inmates who are found innocent as still guilty, which is a violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The Court ruled that inmates whose criminal convictions are overturned should receive refunds for their booking fees, which were collected illegally.

It remains to be seen how the Kentucky lawsuit will fare in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. If you are one of the many exonerated Kentucky inmates who paid booking fees for your jail time, it’s worth following this story. You could be entitled to compensation.

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White Peck Carrington | 26 Broadway | P.O. Box 950 | Mount Sterling, Kentucky 40353-0950 | 859-274-4115 | Fax: 859-498-7363 | Map & Directions