Going to Court in NJ Just Got More Expensive

TRENTON (AP) -

Filing a lawsuit, seeking a divorce and obtaining gun permits are now more expensive in New Jersey.

The state judiciary has hiked roughly 80 of its fees, with the extra cost to court users projected at more than $42 million a year. The higher fees formally take effect Monday, but started with court papers filed electronically after 4:30 p.m. Friday.

The money will be used for three purposes, including the creation of a new system for assessing defendants’ bail status to implement changes state voters approved this month.

“While no one wants to pay more money for government services, the reality is that additional funding is needed to support these important changes,” said Appellate Judge Glenn Grant, who is the acting administrative director of the courts.

Judiciary officials dialed back a few of the increases originally proposed in September.

Applying to get one’s criminal record expunged rises to $75 from $52.50, rather than to $100, and applying to participate in the pretrial intervention program will remain $75, rather than increase to $100. A new out-of-state travel permit for people on probation that would have cost $15 was scrapped.

Among the increases taking effect: Filing a lawsuit, an appeal or for divorce costs $50 more. Filing a small claim costs $35, up from $15. Permits to carry a handgun cost $50, rather than $20, and it now costs $50 to appeal a denial of a permit to buy a handgun.

Court fees were last raised in 2002. The changes are expected to increase revenues by roughly $42 million to $49 million a year.

The money will go to implement the voter-approved bail reforms, which allow judges to order a defendant held in jail without bail if they’re considered a flight risk, a safety threat or likely to try to obstruct the criminal justice process.

Legislation implementing those changes also loosens bail rules for low-risk offenders who aren’t deemed likely to pose a flight or safety risk. That will require new staffers, electronic monitoring, drug testing and treatment services that legislative budget analysts say will cost around $35 million a year.

The bail changes take effect in January 2017.