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The Cost of Incarceration


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According to Florida law, if you are convicted of (or pled guilty or no contest to) a crime, you will owe the State or locality $50 for each day you were sentenced to jail. This is to compensate the County for the cost of feeding and housing you while you were in jail. The Florida Supreme Court said “there is no substantive right in not having to pay for the costs of one’s incarceration”. Goad v. Department of Corrections, 845 So. 2d 880 (Fla. 2003).

§ 920.293, Fla. Stat. (2012):

(2) Upon conviction, a convicted offender is liable to the state and its local subdivisions for damages and losses for incarceration costs and other correctional costs.
(a) If the conviction is for a capital or life felony, the convicted offender is liable for incarceration costs and other correctional costs in the liquidated damage amount of $250,000.
(b) If the conviction is for an offense other than a capital or life felony, a liquidated damage amount of $50 per day of the convicted offender’s sentence shall be assessed against the convicted offender and in favor of the state or its local subdivisions. Damages shall be based upon the length of the sentence imposed by the court at the time of sentencing. [emphasis mine]

A plain reading shows that you will owe $50 a day for each day you were sentenced to. This means that if you were sentenced to 30 days, and only served 20 days due to the earning of ‘trustee time’, you still have to pay $50 x 30 days. That amounts to $1,500 for every month of your sentence. If you were sentenced to the maximum on a first degree misdemeanor, you will get out of jail owing the County $18,000.

This is one of the reasons why it is extremely important to hire a lawyer to defend your case. Imagine telling your boss you need time off because you are going to jail. You might lose your job. To top it all off, after spending nearly a year in jail you will owe thousands to the County. Pleading guilty without a lawyer can be much more costly than hiring one.

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