Volume 107
Issue 3
Mar. '19

Privatizing Criminal Procedure

Written By: John D. King

Abstract

As the staggering costs of the criminal justice system continue to rise, states have begun to look for nontraditional ways to pay for criminal prosecutions and to shift these costs onto criminal defendants. Many states now impose a surcharge on defendants who exercise their constitutional rights to counsel, confrontation, and trial by jury. As these “user fees” proliferate, they have the potential to fundamentally change the nature of criminal prosecutions and the way we think of constitutional rights. The shift from government funding of criminal litigation to user funding constitutes a privatization of criminal procedure. This intrusion of market ideology into the world of fundamental constitutional rights has at least two broad problems: it exacerbates structural unfairness in a system that already disadvantages poor people, and it degrades our conception of those rights. This Article proposes solutions to ameliorate the harshest effects of these rights-based user fees but also argues for the importance of resisting the trend of the privatization of constitutional trial rights.

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