89.1 WEMU

Michigan Court Will Decide Whether Court Fees Are Taxes

Mar 13, 2018

Michigan Supreme Court Building
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether it’s legal for judges to order defendants to pay fees and court costs.  A defendant says that violates the state constitution.

Shawn Cameron Junior was ordered to pay more than $1,600 in court costs after he was convicted of assault.  But he says that amounts to a tax, and only the Legislature can enact taxes.  He says courts can also be arbitrary in how they set the charges.

Cameron is also challenging the law that allows courts to collect fees and costs.  He says it does not specifically state the purpose of imposing court costs and does not adequately set standards for determining the costs.

Lower courts have upheld the fees on the grounds they raise money from people using the criminal justice system to help pay for the criminal justice system.

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org