Court costs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Court costs (also called law costs in English procedure) are the costs of handling a case, which, depending on legal rules, may or may not include the costs of the various parties in a lawsuit in addition to the costs of the court itself. In the United States, "court costs" (such as filing fees, copying and postage) are differentiated from attorney's fees, which are the hourly rates paid to attorneys for their work in a case. Court costs can reach very high amounts, often far beyond the actual monetary worth of a case. Cases are known in which one party won the case, but lost more than the monetary worth in court costs. Court costs may be awarded to one or both parties in a lawsuit, or they may be waived.[1]

In the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, the losing side is usually ordered to pay the winning side's costs. This acts as a significant disincentive to bringing forward court cases. Usually, the winning party is not able to recover from the losing party the full amount of their own solicitor's (attorney's) costs, and has to pay the shortfall out of pocket. The loser pays principle does not generally apply under the United States legal system.

United States[edit]

The loser pays principle does not apply under the United States legal system unless there is a specific statute awarding fees to the prevailing party.[2] Alternatively, the contract between the parties may provide that the prevailing party is entitled to recover attorney's fees from the losing party. In cases in the federal court system, Title 28, section 1920, of the United States Code provides:[3][4]

A judge or clerk of any court of the United States may tax as costs the following:

(1) Fees of the clerk and marshal; (2) Fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case; (3) Fees and disbursements for printing and witnesses; (4) Fees for exemplification and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case; (5) Docket fees under section 1923 of this title; (6) Compensation of court appointed experts, compensation of interpreters, and salaries, fees, expenses, and costs of special interpretation services under section 1828 of this title.

A bill of costs shall be filed in the case and, upon allowance, included in the judgment or decree.

A 2022 study, which used a randomized controlled trial of court-related fee relief for misdemeanor defendants in an Oklahoma county, found that court fees neither caused nor deterred new crime, and did not provide meaningful financial benefit to the government.[5]

Court costs by U.S. jurisdiction[edit]

Jurisdiction Criminal Cases Notes
 U.S. Federal Defendant never liable for court fees[6] Government liable for defendant attorney's fees in cases of bad faith prosecution[6]
 Alabama Court fees payable on request of the judge if convicted[7]
 Alaska Court fees payable on conviction unless good cause shown[8]
 Arizona Court fees never available in a criminal case, even in cases of a bad faith argument[9]
 Arkansas Court costs assessed on conviction or guilty plea;[10] $150 for misdemeanor or felony violation and $75 for local ordinance[10]
 Colorado Court costs range from $5.00 for the most minor offences to $4,500 for felony drug convictions and up to $3,000 for sex offences[11]
 Connecticut $20 fee for those convicted of felony, $15 for misdemeanor[12]
 Delaware $10 fee for those convicted of any charge[13]
 Florida $200 fee for those convicted of felony, $50 for misdemeanor, with many additional costs depending on the offence[14] Florida is known to use a large number of fees, these can be collected from defendants with a 40% surcharge[15]
 Georgia Georgia assesses a 10% additional fee if a defendant challenges a traffic violation and is found guilty[16] Georgia has been criticised[by whom?]} for its high level of fees
 Idaho Defendants are often required to pay fees[17]
 Illinois Offenders can be ordered to pay some court costs[18] Paying court fees can be a condition for parole
Jurisdiction Criminal Cases Notes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cote, J. E. (1969-12-31). "Should the Fees of Experts be Included in Costs?". Alberta Law Review: 525. doi:10.29173/alr2268. ISSN 1925-8356.
  2. ^ See, e.g., Ariz. Rev. Stat. s. 12-341.01, providing that in contract actions the court has discretion to order the losing party to pay the reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the prevailing party.
  3. ^ "28 U.S. Code § 1920 - Taxation of costs". Legal Information Institute.
  4. ^ Brunet, Edward; Kakalik, J. S.; Ross, R. L. (February 1985). "Measuring the Costs of Civil Justice". Michigan Law Review. 83 (4): 916. doi:10.2307/1288785. ISSN 0026-2234. JSTOR 1288785.
  5. ^ Pager, Devah; Goldstein, Rebecca; Ho, Helen; Western, Bruce (2022). "Criminalizing Poverty: The Consequences of Court Fees in a Randomized Experiment". American Sociological Review. 87 (3): 529–553. doi:10.1177/00031224221075783. ISSN 0003-1224. S2CID 247038184.
  6. ^ a b "Seeking Attorneys' Fees in Criminal BAD Cases FAITH Prosecution" (PDF). April 2001. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  7. ^ "Alabama Code Title 12. Courts § 12-19-150". FindLaw. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  8. ^ "ALASKA RULES OF COURT: RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE" (PDF). Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  9. ^ "Arizona Court of Appeals No. 2 CA-SA 2009-0031". FindLaw. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "2014 Arkansas Code Title 16 § 16-10-305 - Court costs". Justia. 2014. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  13. ^ "Criminal Rules of Procedure: Rule 58". Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  14. ^ "2005 Florida Code - CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND CORRECTIONS COURT COSTS Chapter 938". Justia. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  15. ^ Diller, Rebekah (2010). "The Hidden Costs of Florida's Criminal Justice Fees" (PDF). Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  16. ^ "Imposition of Court Fees and Costs on Indigent Defendants". Georgia Appleseed. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  17. ^ "Financial obligations in criminal cases" (PDF). March 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  18. ^ "POLICIES AND PROCEDURES OF THE ILLINOIS CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM" (PDF). Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. August 2012. Retrieved September 11, 2020.

External links[edit]