Court Hearing In Montgomery Circuit Court Today Over Increased Court Costs LegislationRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Jun 27 2012 1:33 PM
MONTGOMERY: This morning a hearing was conducted before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Charles Price. The purpose of the hearing was to consider a Temporary Restraining Order against the State of Alabama from the collection of increased court costs fees.
The action was brought pursuant to legislation passed that increased court costs fees, a bond execution fee, and additional court costs. The action was brought by 10 bail bonding businesses across the State of Alabama.
The legislation calls for a “booking fee” of $ 35.00 to be paid by the Surety ( Bonding Company ) when the bond is signed. This fee is being challenged on it’s constitutionality. The law also increases all court costs fees on the filing of all legal documents ( to include eviction notices for those in the real estate business ).
The argument in court and questions from Judge Price, said this fee is being used to fund the agency ( District Attorney ) that prosecutes you. There were serious questions that charging such a fee prior to being convicted is constituionally legal. The defendant ( person arrested ) is paying prior to conviction for the distruct attorney to put him or her in jail.
The legislation calls for fees of 3.5% of the amount of the bond, up to $ 750.00 and at a minimum level of $ 150.00 to be charged upon conviction of plea of a defendant. On misdemeanor cases, the 3.5% of the amount of the bond – minimum being $ 100 maximum being $ 450.00 to be charged. The argument was the District Attorney, who has a hand in setting the bond and argues in bond hearings, now will have a financial vested interest in the amount of the bonds. With the District Attorney having a financial vested interest in the amount of the bond the argument was a DA could no longer independently argue on bond issues.
Some Sheriff’s Across Alabama have yelled “foul play” in the District Attorney getting the bond execution fee. The Sheriff’s argue it is the Sheriff Department and Clerk’s Office that does the work on bonds and not the District Attorney.
The Executive Director of the Office of Prosecution Services and Alabama District Attorney Association testified the District Attorney does a lot of work on the bonds and deserves the fees.
In testimony bondsman from across Alabama testified each jurisdiction was interpreting the law differently.
In this court costs fee bill that was passed and signed into law by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley the District Attorney’s get the highest amount of fees charged. In the back end fees charged on guilty pleas or finding of guilt, the District Attorney gets 45% f the fees accesed.
Hillman testified that District Attorney’s apprehend the person’s who fail to appear for court and get them back into court.
The defendant in this case is Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. He was represented by members of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. The AG office challenged that Governor Bentley was not the proper defendant in this case.
After a hearing from 9:06 AM until about 12:30 PM, Circuit Judge Charles Price ordered this hearing continued until July 24th. Judge Price said the issue was of great importance and the vagueness and merits needed to be decided quickly. Judge Price also directed the Plaintiff’s to see if anymore defendants needed to be added to the case other than Governor Bentley.
The Legislature Goes After The Least
In considering fees to raise, the Alabama Legislature feels that people ( voters ) would say do not get arrested if you do not want to the pay the fee. And this would not impact all of the voters.
The argument is, those being arrested are not always being found guilty. However the person arrested has to pay the $ 35.00 fee regardless of being found guilty or not guilty.
The $ 35.00 fee can be excessive if there are multiple charges. If a person has 4 charges, that fee can be $ 35.00 time 4, unless the arrest arise from the same incident.
More arguments to come on July 24th.
I have bail bonding business and I am a Plaintiff in the case bringing this action.
I was in the room where negotiations were being held in the Alabama Legislature on this law. What was passed WAS NOT what was agreed on.
I know it surprises you those in charge in Montgomery would do a bait and switch. Especially those in leadership prosecutorial positions of power. But do not be surprised!