Bakersfield

Calif. taxpayers begin picking up tab on local criminal fees

A 2020 law that brought an end to fees assessed on criminal arrestees and defendants is forcing state taxpayers to pick-up the tab on key elements of the local criminal justice system.

Case-in-point: Kern County, which is set to receive more than $1.7 million from the California treasury to make up for lost revenue as a result of Assembly Bill 1869. 

AB 1869, signed by Gov. Newsom in 2020 and effective last July, took the power away from counties and state agencies to assess and collect criminal administrative fees. 

It also vacated the costs of any unpaid balances and made them unenforceable and uncollectible. 

To fill the expected revenue losses suffered by the counties because of the new law, California lawmakers also appropriated $65 million annually for five years. 

Kern County’s annual portion for the next five years is $1,775,415, based on the following department breakdown: 

  • Sheriff: $888,889
  • Probation: $717,105
  • Public Defender: $139,732 
  • Indigent Defense Services: $888
  • Trial Courts: $28,801

The Kern County Board of Supervisors is set to approve the use of the $1.7 million of state funding to cover the losses on Tuesday. 

According to county documents, the funds will be used to support legal representation, preparation of required pre-sentence investigation reports and cost of supervision and alternative custody options. 

While the county’s departments have stopped collecting criminal fees, in accordance with AB 1869, they have not yet submitted a full list of delinquent accounts that are eligible for discharge to the board of supervisors. 

All departments will work with the Kern County Superior Court and return to the board with a full list of eligible accounts. 

The county expects that amount to total between $9-$24 million.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.