Court costs increase statewideBy Jeremy Smith Published 2:08pm Sunday, June 24, 2012
Changes to court fees approved by the Alabama Legislature this year went into effect Thursday, increasing the cost attached to speeding tickets and most other citations.
In Marengo County Circuit Court, the costs for traffic tickets have increased to $160. A DUI will now cost violators $335 while reckless driving has spiked to $185.
Filing fees for misdemeanors are up to $262 while drug cases now cost a hefty $402. Bad check writers will be even closer to penniless when they pay the $550.20 associated with their crime.
While each municipal and circuit court has its own set of fees, the legislation does not call for an increase in seat belt or open container violations.
“This law doesn’t apply to open containers, seat belts or parking tickets,” Karen Broadhead, clerk of the Demopolis Municipal Court, said. “Court costs is increasing on traffic tickets from $124 to $150. On non-traffic, it is going from $157.50 to $197.50. That’s in municipal court.”
Demopolis will increase its cost according to the act passed by the legislature. Violators within the city limits will an additional $40 for misdemeanor cases and an extra $26 for traffic cases.
There will also be a bail bond fee of $35 on each executed bond.
According to the Administrative Office of Courts, the additional revenue is needed to prevent the layoff of an additional 500 employees from the state’s trial court system, which has already experienced significant reductions in staffing levels over the past several years.
Most circuit clerks’ offices are currently operating at less than 50 percent of the required staffing levels as determined by a manpower formula developed by the National Center for State Courts.
Act 2012-535, as it is officially know, offers a breakdown of where each of the extra funds obtained as a result of its passage will go.
Each misdemeanor case will produce an additional $10 for the Presiding Municipal Judge or the Municipal Court Clerk Fund, $20 to the State Judicial Administration Fund, $5 to the Presiding Circuit Judge’s Judicial Administration Fund and $5 to the Circuit Clerk’s Judicial Administration Fund.
Ever individual traffic violation will send an extra $2 to the Police Officer Annuity Fund, $10 to the Presiding Municipal Judge/Municipal Court Clerk Fund, $9.34 to the State Judicial Administration Fund, $2.33 to the Presiding Circuit Judge’s Judicial Administration Fund and $2.33 to the Circuit Clerk’s Judicial Administration Fund.
Each executed bail bond will send an extra $3.50 to the Municipal Fund. $15.75 to the Presiding Municipal Judge and the Municipal Court Clerk Fund and $15.75 to the Solicitor’s Fund in the county where the violation occurred.
The revenue generated by the increase in court fees will be retained within the court system, with one-third retained locally to be used by the circuit clerk and presiding circuit judge for local court administration purposes.
The revenue generated by the bail bond fees will be divided between the district attorney, sheriff and the state or municipal court clerk. A portion of the fee will also go to the Department of Forensic Sciences and the state’s general fund.
The last statewide court cost increase occurred in 2004. However, the revenue generated from that increase was earmarked for the general fund and not the operation of the court system.
The court cost increases and the $35 bail bond filing fee became effective Thursday. The other portion of the bond fee will become effective on Aug. 1.
The court cost increases will expire on Aug. 30, 2015, unless extended by the Legislature.
Information from Stephanie Nelson of The Andalusia Star News was used in this report.