It’s not the fine that makes traffic tickets and other offenses that’s so big. It’s all those court costs that are added on. The chairman of a special committee formed to streamline the court fee system counts about two-dozen fees that are added to court filings and fines in state, county, and city courts. Kansas City Appeals Court Judge Gary Witt says they add about $215-million to fines and penalties each year. He says that makes it hard to explain to someone why a $10 fine costs them $80 to pay off.
Public Defenders complain the so-called “court costs” penalize the indigent defendants they represent to make bond or make restitution. One of them is Chris Hatley of Springfield, who says some of the fees make no sense. “Why is the criminal defendant paying into the spinal cord injury fund….Why is the criminal defendant paying into any number of dozens of random funds?” he asks.
And on top of that, he says, there’s a $25 fee charged if his clients don’t pay their fines and court costs within thirty days.
Witt’s committee is to report its findings to the state supreme court by November first.
AUDIO: Witt 8:01 (Gary Witt speaks to Senate Judiciary Committee)
AUDIO: Bukowski :32 (Jennifer Bukowski, Columbia defense attorney, former public Defender).
AUDIO: Hatley 4:28 (Chris Hatley, Springfield Public Defender)