State Supreme Court hears Clark man’s case on jail bill after charges dropped

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Wednesday took up the case of a man who was presented a bill for $4,000 to cover the cost of his incarceration while awaiting trial when his criminal charges were eventually dropped.

David Jones was arrested in Clark County in October 2013, and was unable to post bond, until a judge lowered it enough that a family member was able to pay it, 14 months later.

When he was released from jail, he was presented a bill for $1,400, which was the cost of his incarceration. The court four months later dismissed the charges against him.

Greg Belzley, Jones’ attorney, told the court that according to state law, “A prisoner will be ordered to pay the cost of his confinement by the sentencing court, which necessarily presumes a finding or a plea of guilt.”

He said the judge can also absolve a convicted prisoner entirely from paying all or part of the cost of his confinement.
Belzley noted, “When the statute was first written, it said the county can do this. There was no mention of a sentencing court. But before the statute became law, it was amended so ‘county’ was taken out and was replaced by ‘the sentencing court.’”

Jeffrey Mando, representing Clark County, said, “What we’re here about, has the jail violated any constitutional provision, has the jail violated the statute, has the jail violated any precedent that would provide them with a remedy? As harsh as that may sound, that’s the law.”

When asked by the justices what action has been taken regarding the bill, Mando replied, “There has been no effort to collect it, there’s been no effort to pursue it. It was simply handed to Mr. Jones at the time he was released. We have taken no steps, nor do we intend to take any steps to pursue collection of that $4,000 bill from Mr. Jones.”

Jones has been out $256 the jail collected from his canteen account.

Federal courts have denied Jones’ claims on constitutional grounds as has Clark Circuit Court and the State Court of Appeals.

There is no timetable on when the justices will issue their opinion.