WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Driving too fast can get you a speeding ticket. But many drivers know it's the court costs that will really ding you, typically tacking on almost 200 dollars to your initial speeding fine.
But where exactly does that money go? You may be surprised to learn hardly any of the "court costs" actually make it back to the courts.
New Hanover County Clerk of Court Jan Kennedy said because of the court cost label, people mistakenly think their fines get funneled back to the courthouse staff. That's hardly the case. She gave us the break down, and you'll see the vast majority of the court cost money actually goes straight to the state's general fund:
Criminal District Court Costs (Source NC Administrative Office of the Courts):
State General Fund $127.05
State Bar Legal Aid Account $2.45
Facilities Fee $12.00
Phone System Fee $4.00
Confinement Fund Fee $18.00
State Law Enforcement Officer Retirement Fund $7.50
State Law Enforcement Officer Training & Certification Fee $2.00
Chapter 20 Fee (for driving related offenses) $10.00
Service Fee for Law Enforcement Agency issuing citation: $5.00
Of those fees, Kennedy says the only one that directly helps the county courthouse is the $12 facility fee. Granted, the state legislature pays for many court expenses out of its general fund, but Kennedy says much of the "court cost" money is diverted to other agencies.
"I think it's important for the public to know where their money is going," Kennedy said, explaining that she thinks there is a widespread misconception that court costs come back to the court.
Kennedy says the money may still be going to worthy causes - but labeling it "court costs" can be misleading. She says her staff hasn't had a raise in 4 years, even though the court cost fine being paid by drivers getting tickets has gone up significantly.
You still have to pay the costs – even if you never set foot in a courtroom. The only way out of paying court costs is if you are found not guilty of the charge against you, or if the charge is dismissed entirely.
If the charge is simply reduced to a lesser offense, you are still on the hook for the court costs.