State Politics

Idaho counties can charge whatever they want to watch you before trial — for now

Seattle Times/MCT

A bill introduced Friday would legalize the previously unauthorized but prevalent practice of charging defendants fees for misdemeanor pretrial supervision in Idaho, while capping those fees at a much lower rate than that charged by some counties.

“There is nothing in Idaho law that authorizes the fee,” said Sara Thomas, administrative director of the Idaho Supreme Court and a former appellate public defender.

The bill would also cap the amount of monthly fees at $30, far less than Thomas said some counties have been charging.

Sen. Tony Potts, R-Idaho Falls, asked how the fees were being collected.

Thomas testified that practices in charging such fees vary widely from county to county. Some counties charge none, while others charge those people who are on pretrial release far more than they are legally permitted to charge people sentenced to probation or on parole — so the fees charged to the innocent are higher than those charged to the convicted.

Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, asked whether the counties shouldn’t be left to determine the fees themselves.

Thomas responded that some counties have been charging inordinately high feels. Twin Falls County has charged those on pretrial supervision $150 per month, she testified, double the legal maximum for those on probation or parole.

“This is someone who is presumed innocent,” Thomas said.

Someone who agrees to plead guilty faces a lower set of fees than someone who chooses to contest the charges against them, she said.

Printing the bill is only the first step toward it becoming law. The bill next faces a full hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee.

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.