MIAMI - Miami-Dade County appears to be the only county in the State of Florida charging jurors to park.
Parking around the Miami Dade County Courthouse is limited. Miami-Dade doesn't control or operate many of the nearby parking lots, but they do operate a lot at 1250 NW 12th Street where jurors are charged $5 a day and have to repay if they leave for lunch and re-enter.
Liz Turner was on a jury in the Metro Justice Building that could last three weeks. It could cost her $150 in parking.
"You're a juror. It's your civic duty. You have to be there. No, it's not right," said Turner.
Every juror who Local 10 talked to had the same reaction.
"We shouldn't have to pay," said Rafael Gee, who has been at the courthouse for six days.
"I ate lunch in my car in the parking lot because I didn't want to leave and be charged again to re-enter," said Leslie Herrera.
Miami-Dade County Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez agrees.
"Jurors should not be charged for parking," said Martinez. "Citizen participation as jurors is essential to fair trials. Parking and transportation costs hinder active participation, particularly of the unemployed and citizens on fixed incomes."
Local 10 checked with Duval (Jacksonville), Hillsborough (Tampa), Pinellas (Clearwater/St. Petersburg), Orange (Orlando), Broward and Palm Beach Counties. None of those counties charge jurors to park.
'We were not aware that we were the only county that charges parking for jurors, but it is something that we are looking to possibly change," said Lester Sola, the Director of Internal Services for Miami-Dade County.
Past county administrations have not changed the current system, even though Harvey Ruvin, the Clerk of the Courts, has asked several times.
"In principal, we do believe jurors, those people providing a civic duty and a service, should have an opportunity to park for free. It is something that the mayor has directed us to take a look at it," added Sola.
"The idea here is that we make it easier for people to perform their civic duty as opposed to make it harder, but we have to look at all angles," said Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez has asked his staff to research the issue to see if there is a solution.
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