Wealthy Suburb Charged People for being Arrested

Thursday, June 05, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Chicago’s high-end suburb of Woodridge has been charging anyone who gets arrested within their community a $30 fee, which some consider unconstitutional.


Jerry Markadonatos, for one, objected to the charge and filed a class action suit arguing it violated a person’s right of due process.


The legal challenge has now reached the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which is on its second hearing of the case. A divided panel of judges previously upheld the fee, so Markadonatos’ attorney, James Burnham, asked the full court to review the ruling.

In getting a second chance before the court, Markadonatos seemed to find some sympathetic justices who disapproved of Woodridge’s fee. Judge Richard Posner said “there’s no basis for charging a person to be arrested.”


When the defendant’s lawyer, Paul Rettberg, likened the cost to filing fees, Posner shot back: “Arrest is not a privilege. Paying for being arrested is ridiculous.”


Rettberg also tried to argue that $30 was “a very small amount” these days, implying that the lawsuit was much ado about nothing. But Judge Ann Williams appeared to have a problem with the amount, stating: “Thirty dollars could be a lot of money to someone out of work.”


Courthouse News Service reported that Rettberg struggled at times while responding to the judges’ questions. So did Burnham. The lack of preparation by both counsels resulted in outbreaks of laughter by trial observers and noticeable consternation among some of the judges.


Markadonatos might get his money back, but new arrestees in Woodridge won’t have to worry. The village repealed the fee in March. Last year, it brought in more than $18,000.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Posner Calls Town’s Arrest Fee ‘Ridiculous’ (by Jack Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service)

Jerry Markadonatos v. Village of Woodridge (Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals)

Ahead Of Court Decision, Woodridge Repeals $30 Booking Fee It Charges To Arrestees (by Ryan Terrell, My Suburban Life)


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