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Published on Friday, May 22, 2015

Court increases infraction fines – additional funds for local government

Earlier this year AWC partnered with the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) and the state’s Office of Public Defense to request the Supreme Court increase traffic and other infraction fines to support the need for increased public defense services. In 2012, the Supreme Court adopted new standards for public defense, and in January of this year the new caseload limits established by the Court for public defenders became effective. These new mandates have led to increased costs for public defense services for cities. However, there hasn’t been any new revenue or other funding from the State to help offset the new mandate. AWC has worked on efforts in the past to ask the Legislature for additional funds without success.

This year we felt our best opportunity for additional funding was to ask the Court to use its authority to increase the infraction fees, which hadn’t been raised since 2007. The Court adopted an increase of $6 for the Judicial Information System surcharge to fund improvements to the court computer system and a $6 inflationary increase to the base penalty for a total increase of $12 that takes effect July 1, 2015. Cities retain about 68% of the base fine, so cities will keep about $4 of the $6 increase locally to help fund programs like public defense. The remaining $2 will go to the state’s general fund. AWC has partnered with WSAC to ask the Legislature to dedicate the new revenue from this infraction increase to the public defense grant program operated by the Office of Public Defense. The additional revenue to the state is expected to be about $4.6 million for the 2015-17 biennium. We would like to thank Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) for her work to include that provision in the House adopted budget, HB 1106.

Here is a link to the court order, IRLJ 6.2. For more information about the public defense standard, check out this MRSC blog post.

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