"What's up with that?" - Court costs - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

"What's up with that?" - Court costs

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If you go to misdemeanor court, there's a cost for that. An issue in juvenile court, another court cost...

One of ABC 33/40's Facebook friends wanted to know what's up with court costs and where does the money go?

These court costs are not pulled out of thin air.  Each county's legislative delegation comes up with the costs and they are approved by the state legislature.

That's why each county has a different breakdown of court costs.

Those who work in those courthouses will be the first to say, those costs don't sustain the courts.

Mary Harris has been circuit clerk of the Shelby County Justice System for the last thirteen years.

She's seen staff dwindle, even as the county  grows.

"It's been very difficult and obviously it's not just Shelby County, it's a state-wide issue," says Harris. "Along with the growth in the population, comes a growth in the case load. Yet we haven't seen that same growth in the number of employees in the office."

Harris says court cases come with different costs, and those vary in each county.

"You're going to have your local court cost bills that are added on for a variety of reasons. Some counties have jail fees, where it might be two or three dollars added on because they're wanting to build a new jail," Harris explains. "So, you've got your basic fees and then you've got the add ons, which makes every county have a little bit different amount that's charged."

Alacourt.gov breaks down the costs and distribution fees of each county.
Including Jefferson and Shelby counties.

"Court costs that are out here are divvied up throughout other branches of government and other agencies of government. Everyone needs to understand that those don't all go to the court system. In fact, very little goes to the court system," says Rich Hobson. Hobson is the administrative director of courts for the Alabama Judicial System.

He says, since little of the costs go back into the court system, it is crucial for the general fund not to take any more from the judicial budget.

"If we lose any more (funds) it would just be devastation. Courts need to be there for conducting of business. Businesses rely on the court system. Individuals rely on the court system. And that is why it is not an agency, it is a complete branch of government and a very vital one."

For a complete breakdown of court costs click here.

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