Court costs are mandated by statute. That means, the Florida legislature has determined that anyone who enters a plea or is found guilty by the court or a jury must pay to keep the courts running.
Now as you probably know, nearly all criminal cases are resolved through plea negotiations. In my humble opinion, a good criminal defense attorney is a fierce advocate who aggressively pursues their clients' best interests without giving any ground. At the same time, a good defense lawyer is also an experienced and clever negotiator. Somebody who understands both sides of a case, its inherent strengths and weaknesses, and what comprises a fair resolution. Also, a good defense lawyer is prepared to go to trial should negotiations fail.
So a big part of being a criminal lawyer is successfully negotiating and obtaining good plea bargains for clients. A good plea may mean no jail time, no probation, and/or no conviction. If the charge can later come off of your record through the sealing process, then it may be a good resolution that can minimize the risk associated with going to trial.
But whenever a client enters a plea of guilty or no contest, they must pay court costs. Court costs vary depending on whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. Court costs may also vary depending on which county you are in. For example, I find that court costs in Broward County for misdemeanors and less than court costs in Miami-Dade for the same charges.
For a misdemeanor crime, such as possession of marijuana or petit theft, court costs can run anywhere from $275 up to $400.
For felonies, court costs are usually over $500.
Florida law describes how court costs should be broken down. Certain classifcations of crimes have their own additional court costs, such as criminal traffic offenses (reckless driving, driving while license suspended, etc...).
Domestic violence offenses also have additional court costs. The court costs paid for domestic violence offenses usually help fund statewide domestic violence programs.
DUI has its own court costs as well, in addition to mandatory fines.
The judge can impose a stay on court costs, meaning that you don't have to pay them until several months, or even years, later.
Also, the Clerk of Courts can help you to set up a payment plan should you need one.
If you do not pay your court costs, you will be sent to a collection agency and your credit score can be severely damaged.
If you enter a diversion program, you typically do not have to pay court costs because you have not entered a plea.
I represent clients charged with crimes in Miami-Dade and Broward. If you are in need of the services of a criminal defense attorney, call me today to discuss your case.