County objects to waiving court costs and fines

County objects to waiving court costs and fines
Updated: Mar. 12, 2018 at 9:34 PM EDT
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BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Bladen County Court officials will no longer have the authority to remit court costs and fines.

Commissioners passed a measure Monday that will allow Bladen County Attorney to object to waiving court costs and fines on behalf of the county.

"By the county attorney signing an objection to waiver, which will go to Raleigh, that the court cost and fine will come back directly to the county, it cannot be waived," said attorney Leslie Johnson, who with his father, Allen, represent Bladen County.

Due to a loophole in state law, judges in North Carolina have the ability to waive court fees for a defendant, if his or her lawyer requests it.

Costs associated with going to court vary by crime. For example, taking a typical speeding violation to court would cost $238.

Fees can be waived for any reason, likely because the defendant cannot afford the legal costs.

"It could be for a number of reasons," said Johnson. "You can ask if a guy's sick, or if he doesn't have a lot of money, you can say, 'Judge would you waive the court cost and fine on this one? He deserves it, or he needs it, or his family needs it.'"

Though it does not violate the law, waiving court fees can lead to a potential loss in revenue, especially for smaller counties.

"They don't do this often but they can do it," said County Attorney Leslie Johnson. "It's my understanding that maybe some judges in the bigger cities have done that a little more than we here in Southeastern North Carolina but the state has given each county the authority not to waive this fee."

On Dec. 1, 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law which allows government entities to formally object to waving these costs.

By passing the agenda item Monday, Bladen County judges will not be able to waive costs, keeping revenue in the county.

While excessive fee waving has not been in issue in Bladen County, county leaders felt it was an important step to take.

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