Graffiti Could Bankrupt You

A very short book excerpt

Joe McKendry

In Florida, graffiti is a second-degree misdemeanor. By statute, the punishment is up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. On top of that, a convicted person will face many or all of the following: a special $250 graffiti fine, a $50 application fee to retain a public defender, a $50 fee for using the public defender, a $50 prosecution fee, $60 in court costs, a $50 offender fee, a $20 crime-stopper fee, a $20 crime-prevention fee, a $10 county-court fee, $50 in conviction costs, a $124 community-control fee, and a $40-a-month probation fee. These additional fees can total more than $750. Missing a payment deadline may generate a $30 late fee, a $7 license-suspension fee, a $60 license-reinstatement fee, and a $25 fee to initiate a payment program if the person cannot pay the full amount, bringing the total to more than $850. If that sum remains unpaid after 90 days, the case will be referred to a private collections company, which can impose up to a 40 percent surcharge on the uncollected debt, or an additional $340. Similarly, in Texas, a graffiti misdemeanor automatically triggers the application of at least nine and as many as 23 fees for an immediate surcharge of up to $444 in addition to the criminal fine. In Oklahoma, misdemeanor fees can total as much as $1,000.

Adapted from Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal, by Alexandra Natapoff, published by Basic