TRENTON, NJ—In response to sweeping changes to the state's bail system, courts in New Jersey have enacted numerous fee increases that took effect on November 17.
A total of 65 fees would be raised, in addition to the creation of 17 new fees. Filing an appeal now costs $250, up from $200. Applying for a probation out-of-state-travel permit would now cost $150 a month.
An application to expunge criminal records would nearly double, from $52.50 up to $100.
A new $50 fee is now in effect for appealing a denial of a permit to purchase a handgun, or a firearms ID card.
The courts in New Jersey currently collect a total of $82 million annually, and court fees are estimated to bring in anywhere between $42 million and $49 million of that total each year.
A press release from the State Judiciary maintains that no fee increase would exceed $50, though that applies only to increases on existing fees.
On Tuesday, November 4, New Jersey voters approved a state Constitutional Amendment by way of a ballot question, ending the right to bail but also enabling legislation passed this summer to drastically reform the system of monetary bail.
Advocates of the question said it was a necessary step in the right direction to end a system that has long exploited and jailed the state's poor unnecessarily. Undoubtedly, though, it will have a negative impact on the finances of the state's court system.
Over the course of this year, legislators, the NJ Department of Law and Public Safety, county prosecutors, corrections agencies and the State Office of the Public Defender have been working to prepare for money that would soon be lost, as well as other costs that would be incurred implementing the new policies.
Additional staff will be required to perform risk-assessments on individuals, ensure speedy trials, and monitor the health and well-being of the defendents pending trial.
The hiring of the extra staff would cost a further $16 million annually, as well as a one-time fee of $2.4 million for the installation of a new computer system.
According to the release, the Judiciary anticipates the increases will generate funding needed to meet the requirements of the new bail laws including:
- $22 million to "develop, implement and administer a pre-trial services program beginning in January 2017 to supervise low-risk offenders who cannot afford bail"
- $10.1 million "for Legal Services of New Jersey"
- $10 million to "fund the Judiciary’s digital eCourts information system"