Where Do "Court Cost" Fees Go?

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By Catalina Trivino

When you pay for civil or criminal cases in court, you'll notice a fee called "court cost." It's money used to pay for Alabama's justice system. But where all this court money is going could be the cause of delays in setting your court date.

"The court system is in a budget crisis," Said Montgomery County Circuit Clerk, Tiffany McCord.

It's a crisis, she says, all stems from where court cost fees are going.

You'd imagine all of those fees are going into the court system. But Mccord says last month, about $133,000 was collected in the criminal division. Of that, less than 10 percent went directly to the court system. That's not including the other four divisions the clerk's office forsees.

"The overwhelming amount goes to the state comptrollers. We send a portion  to the county commission, to the city of Montgomery, we send a portion to the administrative office of courts," Said McCord.

She told us the court costs fees are distributed to more than 15 other entities in the county.

So what does this mean for you? The insufficient funding may cause delays for your court date.

"When people have matters that are serious to be brought into the courtroom, they want them to be handled expeditiously and part of that is a function of funding," Said Senator, Dick Brewbaker, who voted against last year's $26 court cost increase in the legislature.

He said it was because all the money was not going to the courts and it is still leaving the court system without sufficient funds.

"The total fee on a traffic ticket is $160, but if you look across to what goes to the state judicial fund only $16 dollars of that $160 actually goes to the state judicial fund.

But when we asked Brewbaker if he'd bring it up in the legislature...

"If the people who are concerned and are willing to go to bat to make an issue out of I'll be happy to support them. Yes," Said Brewbaker.

McCord told us she hopes something is done to bring more adequate funding to the court system. The current employees haven't even had a raise since 2008. She said she's fearful to lose more employees.

Montgomery County's courts do not have a budget because they are part of state government and are under the administrative office of courts' budget, which covers every county.