49 OAG 171 (1960)
 
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Justice of Peace - Fees - Justices of peace
may charge fees only as set forth in ch. 307.

In cases dismissed county becomes liable for
fees and costs in state cases as provided in
Section 959.055(1).

Commissioner of motor vehicle department has
power and duty to direct state traffic patrol
officers not to take cases to courts where
illegal fees are being charged.

December 13, 1960.
JAMES L. KARNS, Commissioner,
Motor Vehicle Department.

You inquire as to the proper fees to be
charged by a justice court in a state traffic
case where there is no contest.

You point out that the records of the state
traffic patrol disclose that there is a great
variance in fees assessed by the various
justice courts for identical matters.

Fees which may be charged by justices of the
peace are set out in ch. 307 of the statutes.

The amount of fees which a justice may charge
in each case will depend upon the services
which are performed which are necessary to
the disposition of the matter before the
court

However, this amount should be uniform in
each court where the same offense is charged
against a violator
in a non-contested case.

For a justice to intentionally charge more,
or less, than is prescribed by law would be a
violation of Section 946.12(5), which
provides a $500.00 fine
or imprisonment of not more than one year for
intentionally soliciting or accepting
"anything
of value which he knows is greater or
less than is fixed by law."

Taking the most simple case, where the
traffic violator is apprehended by your
patrol officer for violation of a state
traffic statute and a uniform traffic
citation is issued directing the violator's
appearance before a justice court, or other
court with justice court jurisdiction, at a
time set in such citation, and where the
violator appears before the court at the time
set and pleads guilty, the following schedule
of fees would be proper in such case as
provided in Section 307.01:

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1.  Docketing case                      $1.00

2.  Entering action without process       .15

3.  Filing papers (Citation, Report to
    MVD., and Certificate of Conviction)  .30

4.  Oath to citation                      .25

5.  Judgment                              .75

6.  One folio writing (100 words)         .15

7.  Drawing Report to M.V.D.              .25

8.  Drawing Certificate of Conviction,
    (State cases only, Section 960.27)
    postage and registry                  .79

9.  Taxing costs                          .25

10. Entering satisfaction of judgment     .25

                                        $4.14

It should be noted that no fee is being
allowed for drawing of the complaint because,
in fact, the uniform citation sworn to by the
court officer is an adequate complaint; and
since it is drawn by the officer in
connection with his duties, the justice
may not charge for that paper.

Nor should a charge be made for issuing a
warrant since the general appearance of the
defendant before the court has made the
issuance of a warrant superfluous.

The issuing of a warrant and filing it in the
court file without placing it in the hands of
an officer for service would be unnecessary
to the completion of the action before the
court, since the defendant stands voluntarily
before the court.

It would be highly improper for the court to
attempt to make a charge for a warrant in
such a circumstance.

Where a deposit is made for a speeding
violation under state statute, Section 345.13
provides for an ex parte hearing and a
summary disposition.

The same fees would apply as previously set
out for the violator who appears personally
and does not contest the charge.

Where the accused has posted a cash bail to
be relieved from custody on a charge other
than speeding and the amount posted is
forfeited for failure to appear, the fee set
out previously would be reduced by $1.54
because no judgment would be entered, only an
order forfeiting the deposit, and report of
conviction to circuit court would not be
made.

The 25 cents allowed for entering the order
would be offset by the loss of the fee for
entering satisfaction of judgment.

It should be pointed out, however, that
except under a speeding charge the forfeiture
of cash bail would not necessarily dispose of
the charge against the accused, since the
penalty of forfeiture is for failure to
appear at the time set by the court.

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The charge is still pending against the
offender, and, where the court is of the
opinion that the offense is of such a
nature as to require the accused to
appear personally before the court before
disposition of the case, a warrant could
properly issue to bring the accused before
the court, and naturally under such
circumstances the fees would increase
in proportion to the services
necessarily rendered.

Records in the enforcement division indicate
that many courts handling traffic offenses
throughout the state, including justice
courts and other courts with justice court
branches, are charging a flat fee in each
and every case brought before the court.

In most cases, these fees run from $6.00 to
$7.00, regardless of the services performed
in each individual case.

It is my opinion that the charges being made
in most of these cases are excessive and
illegal and that such conduct is probably a
violation of Section 946.12(5) previously
cited.

Section 66.113 requires that every officer
upon receiving fees for an official duty
must, upon request, provide a particular
receipted account of such fees, specifying
for what they respectively accrued.

It naturally follows that only a service
necessary to the disposition of a cause
before the court can be listed and
charged for.

To attempt to make a charge for a service
which was not performed, or which the judge
or justice knows was not a necessary service
to the fulfillment of his duty, would be in
violation of Section 946.12(4).

Your records also indicate that some courts
have adopted a practice of charging court
fees against the accused even though the
court dismisses the charge on the merits.

This is an improper practice.

When there is a charge of violation of a
state law, and when the accused is found not
guilty and the case dismissed, the county
becomes liable for any fees and costs in
connection with the prosecution as provided
in Section 959.055(1).

If a municipal ordinance is involved,
of course, the municipality becomes
liable for any fees and costs.

You have the power and the duty to direct
your enforcement officers not to take
cases to courts where illegal fees
are being charged.

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I would suggest also that you notify this
office as well as the district attorney of
the county involved whenever you suspect
that illegal charges are being made by
any court in handling your traffic cases
 

LLD

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