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10/26/2007
West Virginia Looks to Boost Revenue with Court Costs
Traffic tickets will become more expensive in West Virginia as motorists are double and triple charged for court appearances.

West Virginia Supreme Court chamber
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals yesterday moved to boost revenue from traffic tickets by warning lower courts that they must collect the maximum possible amount in court costs from each defendant. The admonition came during a meeting of the Magistrate Education Committee which continues today. As a result of the clarification, any motorist charged with, for example, both speeding and failure to signal must pay the $160.50 assessment for court costs twice -- for a total of $321 -- even though the motorist appeared only once in court.

"Court costs should be imposed for every conviction, no matter whether the accompanying crime was lumped with others on a certain charging instrument," the Supreme Court explained in a statement.

The high court had decided in the 1999 case State ex rel. Canterbury v Carl "Worthy" Paul that it could not only impose a fee of any amount collected multiple times, but it could also do so retroactively. In the case, the court ordered a magistrate to go back and impose a second charge on defendants who had already paid their debt to society.

"As costs are not punishment or part of the penalty for committing a crime, constitutional double jeopardy protections do not apply," the court reasoned in 1999.

"The fees comprise the revenue source for several vital state accounts," the court explained in its statement yesterday.



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