County court costs increase

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 3, 2010

Court costs in Covington County are going up.

The increase comes after a statewide bill was passed last summer provided for a $16 increase in court costs for cases in city courts and a $21 increase for circuit and district court cases. The increase is called a “solicitor’s fee” and is the same amount as a “fair trial tax” already imposed on cases. The fair trial tax goes to provide legal representation to indigent defendants.

The increase went into effect July 1 and is on all juvenile, traffic, criminal and quasi-criminal cases in juvenile, district, circuit and municipal courts.

Circuit clerk’s offices will receive $3 of the increase from the statewide bill, with the remainder going to the district attorney’s office.

Covington County district attorney Greg Gambril said the Fair Trial Tax Fund is used to pay the costs of indigent defense.

“Whatever the Fair Trial Tax Fund doesn’t cover for indigent defense is paid out of the (local office’s) general fund,” he said. “Prior to this bill, DA offices were funded out of the general fund only, but only covered about 40 percent of what it costs to keep the doors open.

“For numerous years, indigent defense was being funded three times more than DA offices, even though the DA offices were handling more cases and were having their funding cut,” he said. Locally, that equated to a 17 percent cut this year after proration was declared, he said.

“Essentially, the only people who will have to pay the solicitor’s fee are those using the criminal justice system and are found guilty,” he said. “If so many people didn’t break the law, we wouldn’t have funding issues in the first place.”