A pair of stories highlight how much our criminal justice system has been taken over by unrestrained government greed. When I talk to a defendant about the costs of the average DWI plea, the $450 court costs, the $1,000 fine,$50 a month for community service, the $3,000 surcharge, most are shocked. Then I tell them how court costs are really a regressive tax for all kinds of special projects. The fine is the county’s take, the probation fee is a make-work program for the local government, and the surcharge is the result of politicians taxing the group least likely to complain or organize.
They usually reply “This system is all about money isn’t it”. Yes it is. DWI cases have the fake moral outrage factor. That somehow these defendants are awful people who “chose to break the law”, ignoring the fact that DWI is an opinion crime prosecutoed with make believe bullshit SFSTs and crooked DPS lab workers.
The real theft occurs in ticket cases. Ticket courts are cash cows for city and county government. There is less of the phony pretense of “safety” or “justice” involved. The city needs your money, and they will throw lock you in a cage until you pay. Have you ever wondered why a typical speeding ticket fine is over $200. Was the “danger” you posed to the community $200 bad? Or does the government want to maximize how much it steals from each driver? Ticket fines are a political decision. Judges get pressure from other pols (county commissioners, city officials) to up the take so the city can avoid raising tax rates.