Friday, September 9, 2011

Show Them the Money - UPDATED

Pretend for just a minute that you're a state that favors strict punishment for crimes and where along with prisons that are overcrowded there are local jails holding plenty of folks.
Pretend also, that this hypothetical state has no budget surplus.  The money it has goes to education, to medicaid, to maintaining the infrastructure, to supporting the state's historical commission and its dozens of agencies and commissions, to the upkeep of the Governor's mansion and the state capital, to the cops and the prosecutors and the public defenders and the courts and the jails and the prisons, to all the big and little stuff the government does by choice and by necessity.  And, of course, there's never really enough money because there's a drive to cut taxes and because the economy is probably in the toilet and too many people are out of work.
Pretend, that is, that you are one of the 50 states in the union.  Any one, really.
And in that pretend, you're looking for ways to make a buck.  And an obvious place to look is at the accused and convicted because, really, who gives a shit about them?  And sure, maybe 70% of them are indigent, but they're criminals so they must have a little stashed away.  And anyhow, they're criminals (even if they're found not guilty, you know they're criminals), so fuck 'em.
If you're Ohio, you charge the indigent accused, the ones who are entitled to a free lawyer, $25 because free doesn't have to mean without cost.
If you're Arizona, you charge the families and friends of the imprisoned $25 to find out whether they'll be allowed to visit.
If you're more and more states and localities, you charge inmates for the cost of food and shelter.  They'd pay for food and lodging if they were staying in a hotel.  How is staying in jail or prison different?  (As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, "Let me count the ways.")  Actually, if you're California you have some jails with luxury accommodations available specially for those who can foot the bill.
You charge court costs and fees and the cost of court-appointed counsel.
If you're Florida, you try to charge Casey Anthony for the cost of searching for the baby the jury acquitted her of killing.  (After all, she was found guilty of lying so she should pay for everything - some $500,000 worth.)
And now, it seems, if you're New Mexico, you charge $1,122 for a forced body-cavity search that turned up nothing.
Perhaps I'm not being fair.  It's the hospital that performed the search that's billed the victim.  It's New Mexico that's forced her to file a lawsuit to make the state pick up the tab.
Oh, sure.  They had "credible information from a reliable source" that she was hiding as much as an ounce of heroin.  Except she wasn't.  Instead, she was hiding nothing. Nada. Zip.
They didn't get to arrest her.
They didn't get to book her.
They didn't get to make mug shots or have her do a perp walk or splash her name all over TV and the newspapers.
And really, it's a surprise because she's been wily enough to have no criminal record.  Because, er, well, maybe because she's not a criminal.
But she does have the humiliation.
And a bill for $1,122.
And no apology.
But of course, times are tough all over. 

According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, the Metro Narcotics Agency, which is the agency that obtained the search warrant and forced Ms. namenotpublic to undergo the senseless cavity search, paid the $1122 tab.
There's no suggestion in the article (or anywhere else I see) that the Agency apologized to Ms. ________________ or offered to compensate her for humiliation, aggravation, lost time, lost dignity, abuse, and pain.
Still, after her lawyer (the agency didn't offer to pay her legal bill, either) threatened to sue, they paid up.  That is, of course, something.  Which is better than nothing.  But probably not enough.

H/t on the update to Volokh

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