Judge: Suit challenging village’s $30 booking fee has merit

Downers Grove, IL

Been arrested in Downers Grove any time after May 18, 2009?

There is a chance that you are a part of a class action lawsuit ongoing against the Village of Downers Grove.

A judge ruled on Dec. 16 that a Downers Grove man may proceed with a class action lawsuit against the village, forcing a legal debate over the constitutionality of a $30 fee the village charges arrestees.

The man, Robert Bailiff, filed the lawsuit in federal court May 18, 2011. His argument is that the village’s $30 administrative booking fee is unconstitutional. The fee is charged to individuals who post bail or bond for any crime for which Downers Grove police have arrested them.

Bailiff was arrested May 31, 2009, on domestic battery charges. Upon being booked, the arresting officer took $30 from Bailiff for the administrative booking fee, the lawsuit claims.

Then on Jan. 3, 2011, the case against Bailiff was dismissed and the village did not return his $30. So he sued.

The village tried fighting the claim that the suit should be class certified.

Now, because of the recent ruling, if Bailiff wins his case, some people arrested in Downers Grove after May 18, 2009 could stand to get their $30 back.

Bailiff’s attorney, Vincent DiTommaso, said he expects to send a letter to anyone who is eligible to join the suit.

“It’s the people who (were) arrested and paid the booking fee,” he said. “At some point we will have a list of all the names and addresses of all the people.”

Anyone who could not pay the fee at the time of their arrest is ineligible.

The May 18, 2009, was the cut-off date because of a statute of limitations, DiTommaso said.

Bailiff believes the village’s $30 administrative booking fee violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which states that, among other things, no state shall enforce any law that deprives “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...”

The village has made $179,290 collecting the fee since 2005.

The administrative booking fee, proposed by the police department, was adopted June 7, 2005. The village says there are not arrest records going back to 2005, but between Jan. 1, 2006 and June 16, 2011, the department handled 7,886 arrests with booking fees.

The fee was introduced as a way to “offset the officer’s time spent on arrestee processing,” the village says, and to cover the cost of annual maintenance fees associated with booking.

The case is expected to continue with a status hearing Jan. 25.

Village spokesman Doug Kozlowski said the village does not comment on pending litigation, but he did say the village has temporarily stopped charging the administrative fee due to the lawsuit.

2005: Year the village began charging an administrative booking fee
May 31, 2009: Date and year Bailiff was arrested
Jan 3., 2011: The case against Bailiff was dismissed
May 18, 2011, date and year Bailiff filed his lawsuit.