FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously reversed a local court ruling, which stated a man jailed for 14 months in Clark County who later had his charges dismissed, still had to pay for the costs of his incarceration.
According to the 12-page decision, David Jones was arrested and booked into the Clark County Detention Center. As is permitted by state law, the jail charged Jones a $35 booking fee, a $10 fee for his first day’s room and board, and a $5 fee for a hygiene kit.
The CCDC continued to charge Jones a $10 per diem fee for room and board until Jones posted bond on Dec. 15, 2014. He was also charged $2.69 for each hygiene kit he received during his confinement. While he was jailed, the CCDC automatically deducted $256.44 from his canteen account.
At the time of his release in December 2014, Jones owed the CCDC $4,008.85 in fees. Jones paid $20 toward the accumulated debt before being advised to stop by counsel. On April 2, 2015, all the criminal charges against Jones were dismissed without prejudice.
In a lawsuit filed at Clark Circuit Court, Jones claimed state law did not permit the CCDC to bill a former prisoner for the cost of his confinement when all charges against the prisoner had been dismissed, and that the assessment of such fees violated the Kentucky Constitution.
The trial court judge ruled against Jones and said he must pay the fees, which was upheld by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
The high court said, according to state law, “the sentencing court” has the authority to order the payment of fees associated with incarceration of a prisoner in a county jail. The inclusion of “sentencing court” implies that a criminal conviction occurred since without a conviction there would be no need for a sentencing court.
“Jones was never convicted,” the justices said. “All charges against him were dropped. As a result, he was never brought before a sentencing court in this matter. Jones was never ordered by a sentencing court to pay any of the fees associated with his incarceration and no order was ever pursued by the CCDC.”
The high court concluded, “Therefore, the jail, in violation of the statute, issued the $4,008.85 bill to Jones. Additionally, the CCDC erred in not refunding Jones the $256.44 plus the $20 for a total of $276.44.”
The matter was sent back to Clark Circuit Court, for further action consistent with the Supreme Court ruling.