|Court fees and fines in Illinois have become bloated over the years with surcharges to pay for programs and services, resulting in steep increases to what people pay in civil and criminal cases, according to a new report.
Sometimes the added surcharges fund things unrelated to a case, such as law libraries, zero-interest loans for fire departments to buy new trucks, and waiting rooms for children while their parents are in court. In a recent case in central Illinois’ McLean County, for example, a DUI offender paid $1,742 in fees distributed across 25 state and local funds, including a Children’s Advocacy Center and a Fire Prevention Fund. Only about 8 percent of what was paid went to actual court costs related to the case.
And the amounts people pay vary widely from county to county. In southern Illinois’ Macoupin County, a DUI costs $344.
The findings come from the Statutory Court Fee Task Force, which was created by the Illinois Legislature. The group released its report in late June after a yearlong study by lawmakers, circuit court clerks, and judges who were part of the 15-member panel. The report highlights another aspect of the swollen bureaucracy in Illinois, a state with the most units of government in the nation - everything from park districts to counties and townships.
“What happens is every special interest group, if you will, has a really good idea and they say, ‘My very good idea will only cost a $5 filing fee,” said Republican Rep. Steven Andersson, a lawmaker on the task force. “And no one really tallied them up.”