Opelika Municipal Court Fees to Increase
June 20, 2012
The Alabama Legislature passed HB688 during the 2012 Regular Session, which will increase the court fees in most civil and criminal cases statewide, including traffic cases. The new law also adds a $35 upfront filing fee on each bond executed in a criminal case to be paid by the surety, and adds a bail bond fee of 3.5% of the face value of the bail bond to be paid by the defendant upon conviction. The bail bond fee is limited to $450 for misdemeanors and $750 for felonies.
The court cost increases and the $35 bail bond filing fee will be effective on June 21, 2012. The other portion of the bond fee will become effective on August 1, 2012.
Docket fees will increase by $15 in small claims cases, $26 in traffic cases, $40 in criminal cases, and $45 in district and circuit civil cases, including domestic relations cases. Juvenile cases and child support cases will not be affected. Ten dollars of the new fee will be retained by the municipal clerk or judge for each municipal case where there is an existing municipal court. Two dollars collected in each traffic case will go to the Peace Officer’s Annuity Fund.
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. These layoffs have resulted from the trial court’s decreasing appropriation from the general fund and proration over the past five fiscal years. Most clerks’ offices are currently operating at less than 50% of the required staffing levels as determined by a manpower formula developed by the National Center for State Courts.
The revenue generated by the increase in docket fees will be retained within the court system, with one-third of the revenue being retained locally to be used by the clerk and presiding 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 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 increase in court fees will expire on August 30, 2015, unless extended by the Legislature.