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If I don’t go to court, why do I have to pay court costs?

Si Cantwell

North Carolina court fees have increased twice in 2011.

The full question as posed by Dickson Baldridge of Wilmington:

“I got a ticket for running a stop sign that imposed a $50 fine. Since I was guilty I went to the courthouse to pay the fine, but they said I also had to pay court costs of $141. That doesn’t seem fair. If I don’t go to court, why do I have to pay court costs?”

And the answer:

District Court Judge Rebecca Blackmore said Baldridge isn’t alone in his concerns about court costs.

“I think everyone around has a concern about court costs being so high these days,” she said. “The legislature has just raised them twice in the last few months.”

Sharon Gladwell, communications director with the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, said that even if you pay a fine in person or online, “someone in the clerk’s office still has to do some transactional work with that payment.”

“It still requires staff time to process the fee,” she said.

John Smith, director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts and a former special Superior Court judge in New Hanover County, said court costs are paid into the state’s general fund. They make up about 40 percent to 45 percent of the appropriated budget for the courts, he said, with the rest coming from general revenue, or taxes.

Baldridge was lucky. Court costs were raised on July 1, 2011, as part of the state’s new budget for the fiscal year and again on Aug. 1, 2011, to include changes included in the Justice Reinvestment Act, which revised sentencing guidelines and probation rules with the aim of reducing the number of people housed in prisons. That act was not passed until after the state budget was adopted, Smith said.

That’s why there were two increases in as many months.

Smith said in past years, the Administrative Office of the Courts would have had until October to change the costs.

But, he said, lawmakers needed to start collecting the increased costs as soon as possible to balance the budget.

Court costs vary, depending on the type of offense and other factors, said Troy Page, assistant counsel at the Administrative Office of the Courts.

If Baldridge had received his ticket after Aug. 1, 2011, his court costs would have been $178.

For more information on court costs, visit the Administrative Office of the Courts online at nccourts.org.

User-contributed question by:
Dickson Baldridge

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4 Responses to “ If I don’t go to court, why do I have to pay court costs?”

  1. On August 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm chad wrote:

    I received a fine for my dog being in the front yard not on lease when I called to see how much the fine was it was 50.00 but the court fees 115.00 that is joke fees are more then the fine? What a great system we have or I need to get a job there!

  2. On March 20, 2013 at 11:14 am Henry Gallagher wrote:

    I understand paying if I go to court but it should only take a few clicks on a computer if I pay the fine. $30 fine $188 court cost is a crime in it’s self.

  3. On November 27, 2013 at 9:16 am Chris Jernigan wrote:

    $50 fine (rolling a stop sign) but got charged $188 court cost. It’s a shame really. I pay $188 extra for someone to drop my money into the little safe box there and store away my ticket. Ridiculous.

  4. On April 19, 2015 at 7:14 am Sheryl wrote:

    This is a rip off. I got a ticket on hwy 17 in Williamston, NC. I got it for passing a vehicle in a no passing zone. I didn’t do that. There was no double solid line and no sign for no passing zone. I told the officer that it wasn’t a no passing zone but he told me there were even signs stating it was a no passing zone. The court date was for 15 April, 1015. I drove 2 hours for court because I went back and took my Go Pro and video taped the whole 9 miles from the Shell station to where the two lanes open up to 4 lanes again. I got the ticket on the last slight bend in the road before the 4 lanes opened up. There was no double solid line and not one sign the whole 9 miles. I was prepared for court. I got to court on time. Waited my turn to talk to the assistant DA only to find out the judge doesn’t show up until 10 and because I plead not guilty, even though I had proof I wan’t guilty, I had to set another court date. How is that fair? I think they make this difficult on us so we will pay, even when not guilty. I am disgusted with this whole process in this State. It is a revenue RIP OFF. They offer to reduce the penalty so you won’t go to court, making it easier to just pay the fine. What on earth is wrong with this picture? I bet not one clerk in this State makes $188 for 15 minutes of work. Why would we pay that kind a a court cost if we don’t go to court? They should make it a filing fee that is proper and FAIR if we pay our fee. If I win in court, I wonder if I still have to pay a court cost. Now that would really be a RIP OFF. We should all get a class action law suit against this State for ripping us off. I would love to see how they justify the court cost if you don’t go to court, or if you do and win in court.

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