Fees for traffic tickets, court cases rise under new laws

Friday, July 12, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- From speeding motorists to convicted killers, Missourians that break any state or county law will be charged an extra $5 in fees under a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Bob Holden.

The new court fees -- applicable even if a person pleads guilty without ever entering court -- will benefit head injury victims, spinal cord research and motorcycle safety programs.

The fees, effective Aug. 28, are just the latest additions to an already long list of state court costs.

Most state and county traffic tickets already carry nearly $50 in fees on top of the fines for whatever violation was committed. Misdemeanor cases come with at least $70 in court fees; felony cases at least $215, and often more.

Together, the new fees are projected to raise almost $1.8 million annually.

The effect on peoples' pocketbooks could be fairly widespread. For example, the Department of Revenue estimates that more than 130,000 people receive state speeding tickets each year.

The new $2 fee for the head injury fund would help people with traumatic head injuries, and their families, to live in their communities.

The $2 spinal cord fee would go to the University of Missouri for research on spinal cord injuries. It replaces a $25 judgment, passed just last year, that had applied only to intoxication-related driving offenses.

Similarly, the $1 fee for motorcycle safety programs replaces a previous $5 judgment applied only to motorcycle traffic violations.

Because the previous spinal cord and motorcycle fees applied to such a small percentage of traffic cases, judges sometimes forgot to order them, said Nancy Griggs, director of the court services division in the Office of State Courts Administrator.

Because the new fees apply to all cases -- and don't require a specific judgment -- they will raise more money while also providing less administrative hassle, she said.

Holden said the fees will fund needed services.

One of the bill's sponsors, state Sen. Morris Westfall, held his grandson, Cody Ray, while Holden signed the legislation.

Westfall and his wife are raising their grandchild because their daughter suffered head injuries in an automobile accident.

"Our goal was to do everything that the Legislature could to make our highways safe as possible," said Westfall, R-Halfway.

The new law also increases the cost of taking a commercial vehicle driver's license test to $25 from the existing $5, with much of the increase intended to pay for outside test administrators.

Separate legislation also signed into law Thursday imposes a $1 fee on people charged with bouncing checks, with the money to go to the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services.

That legislation also allows people whose property was stolen to retrieve it from pawn shops by presenting a copy of a police stolen record report and an affidavit.

Westfall, who also sponsored that bill, said that theft victims often have to buy back their property from pawn shops under the state's current law.


On the Net:

Gov. Bob Holden: http://www.gov.state.mo.us

Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

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