Cost of a New York City misdemeanor prosecution?
December 8, 2013 3:21 PM   Subscribe

An activist performance artist is currently facing a year in jail for a 15 minute protest in a New York bank; the Manhattan District Attorney’s is charging him and his choir director with “riot in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly, and two counts of disorderly conduct”. The case is well publicized and has first amendment issues; I’m curious about its economic implications. How much money will New York City spend bringing this case to trial? What if the trial goes past the one hearing? How much does it cost to jail someone for a year? Courtroom use; judge and prosecutor time; trials for other crimes having to start later, appeals: added up, what do these parts of a misdemeanor prosecution cost NYC in cash money?
posted by Haere to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Criminal defense attorney here.

Unsurprisingly, the major cost is prison. Rikers Island costs about $168,000 per inmate per year.

In terms of the actual cost of an individual misdemeanor prosecution, my unscientific estimate is "not that much," depending on the facts of the case. Assistant DAs don't make very much money (starting salary in NYC is still in the high 30s I believe), and they have dozens (or hundreds!) of cases at a time, such that they might only prepare a few hours for a misdemeanor trial. Same goes with public defenders.

This is not to say that the aggregate cost of minor prosecutions are negligible; quite the opposite I'm sure.
posted by snarfles at 7:53 PM on December 8, 2013


starting salary in NYC is still in the high 30s I believe

I knew I should have double-checked this. It's up to 60k. Nonetheless, these attorneys handle hundreds or thousands of misdemeanor prosecutions a year; any single misdemeanor prosecution is likely not going to be a major man power expense.
posted by snarfles at 8:04 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


An activist performance artist is currently facing a year in jail
How much does it cost to jail someone for a year?

One year is the maximum penalty according to the charges. According to this article, there is no minimum penalty.
posted by iviken at 1:22 AM on December 9, 2013


Not an attorney, but three-time jury foreman: the chances of an ADA seating a jury that will convict for "a 15 minute protest" are approximately zero.

Of course, if you pulled any punches in your description (or your friend threw any during his "protest"), all bets are off.
posted by dinger at 10:28 AM on December 9, 2013


If you're talking about Reverend Billy, he was released this morning.
posted by hamsterdam at 1:36 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How much money will New York City spend bringing this case to trial?

Functionally? Up to $40 per day per juror, though employers are required to pay that fee in many circumstances. So maybe a few hundred bucks, at worst. A convicted defendant will probably be required to pay that in costs, so quite possibly nothing.

See, everyone involved in trying the case--including the public defender, if one is involved--is already employed full-time by the city. Whether or not your case gets tried, those people are going to get paid, so it doesn't make sense to simply add up their salary/wages for the time involved and call that the bill.

The issue is that the marginal cost of bringing another misdemeanor case is zero, and the marginal cost of actually trying a case is simply the jury fee. If they recover that from the defendant, the marginal cost for the trial would also be zero as well.*

One can, perhaps, ask how much the city would save by not bringing so many charges, but that's not really your question. The marginal cost of bringing and trying any one case is basically zero. Savings could be had by bringing a ton fewer cases, to the point that fewer people would need to be employed by the city, but allocating costs to individual cases isn't really appropriate, because the actual bill that the city incurs for any particular case is pretty much zero.

How much does it cost to jail someone for a year?

A crap ton of money. Rikers' Island is an extreme example, but even in cheaper prisons it's easily $30-50k a year. And the cost doesn't end there. Parole/probation costs money too.

*Even many expert witnesses, like forensic examiners, are on the city/state payroll, so it doesn't cost the state anything to have them testify. If the defendant wants to bring in his own experts, it's allowed to do that, but he usually has to pay for them. Again, no cost to the city.
posted by valkyryn at 7:03 AM on December 11, 2013


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