County may ask for booking fees in county jail

Published 12:48 am Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Covington County Commission is considering asking the legislature to grant the county the authority to levy booking fees for anyone arrested and placed in the county jail.

Commissioner Joe Barton is requesting the legislation.

“You know, we had that public hearing, and the citizens have indicated they’re willing to pay (the gasoline tax) for the use of the roads. We the citizens are paying to furnish a jumpsuit, clothing and what have you when people go to jail.

“We need to get local legislation passed to allow the county to assess a booking fee,” Barton said. “That would give us the right to do that if we decide to, and use those funds to help pay for the operating costs of the jail and salaries and stuff. If you don’t want to be arrested, don’t do wrong.”

Chairman Greg White said there have been some questions about the constitutionality of those kinds of fees, but Barton said other counties and states have assessed the fees.

County attorney Stephanie Cotton expressed concern, as well.

“First, we’ve got to have a resolution that is unanimous in nature to request the local legislation,” she said. “Let’s see if it is constitutionally sound.”

Cotton, who previously represented criminal clients, said the system is already very punitive, and that those charged are “fined to death.” Those assessed court costs also must pay interest on the court costs, and probation fees, she said.

Barton said there are other things the county could do to increase revenue for the sheriff’s department.

“There is revenue that could be brought in for serving civil papers,” he said, indicating that fees could be attached when deputies serve papers in civil cases.

Commissioners took no action on the suggestion.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Appointed Nancy Robbins to fill an unexpired term on the OCAB board.
  • Reappointed Don Cotton to the Rural Development revolving loan fund.
  • Reappointed Greg Henderson to the Covington County Industrial Development Authority.
  • Announced vacancies on the Covington County Water Board; South Crenshaw County Water Authority; South Alabama Regional Council on Aging; South Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission; and the South Central Alabama Mental Health board.