Court fees, traffic ticket costs to increase

Published 4:27 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

The cost of traffic tickets and court fees is going up–but it’s better than the alternative of courts becoming dysfunctional, one local official said.

Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law last month House Bill 688, which raises court fees in an attempt to better fund the state’s judicial system.

The filing of civil cases will cost $45 more (with the exception of small claims cases, which will increase $15; and juvenile-related cases, which are exempt), criminal cases will cost $40 more and traffic cases will cost $26 more.

Circuit Court Clerk Glenn McGriff said he supported the bill because he considered additional funding necessary.

“Either the bill was going to pass or the judicial system was going to shut down in this state,” McGriff said. “We didn’t want to have to go up on everything, but we had no other choice.”

McGriff said his the staff in his office has been cut 45 percent in his six years as circuit court clerk. He said the increased fees will help stave off more cuts.

“This is going to add funds, but it’s not going to be a surplus of funds,” he said. “It’s just going to keep us at status quo. We’re doing our best just to keep our head above water.”

There are six employees in the clerk’s office, one of which is paid for out of the “clerk’s fund,” and thus does not receive retirement or other benefits.

“They’ve just steadily kept cutting our staff out, but we’re expected to keep doing the same things, only with triple the amount of cases,” McGriff said. “If we didn’t get more funding, we were going to be looking at not being able to provide basic services. People are entitled to their day in court.”

Clanton’s and Jemison’s police chiefs said they are concerned the increased fees will be more difficult for people to pay.

CPD Chief Brian Stilwell said the cost of a speeding ticket was $127 when he took office in 2008. With the passing of HB 688, residents can expect to pay $235.

JPD Chief Shane Fulmer said more people might not be able to pay their required fees.

“If that happens, then they wind up sitting in jail, and that costs everyone more money,” Fulmer said.