09/04/09 — Court fees higher to balance budget

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Court fees higher to balance budget

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 4, 2009 1:46 PM

There was a rush on the Clerk of Courts office Monday as people scurried to avoid increases in foreclosure and adoption filing fees. Fees for everything from seat belt violations to criminal record checks now cost more.

State legislators decided last month to collect higher fees to help balance the state budget. Higher justice and public safety fees are expected to generate an extra $47 million this year.

There was one exception to the increases. Fees for small claims dropped from $76 to $70. The amount does not include the $15 per person fee charged by the Sheriff's Office.

Clerk of Court Pam Minshew said she was "at a loss" to explain why the fee had dropped.

"Why, I don't know," she said. "It was the only one that went down."

For the most part all civil superior court fees increased by $2, she said.

Fees for blood tests, foreclosures and failure to appear show the biggest spikes -- all of them doubled.

Blood tests jumped from $300 to $600; foreclosure filing from $75 to $150; and failure to appear from $100 to $200.

Ms. Minshew expects the failure to appear fee increase to be the one about which she will hear the most comments. She used a seat belt fine that increased from $100 to $126 as an example.

There have been cases, she said, in which a person has simply forgotten to pay a seat belt ticket. Now if it happens, the person faces not only the $126 for the ticket, but another $200 for failure to appear for a total fee of $326.

If it remains unpaid, the information is sent to the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles that in turn might revoke the person's driver's license.

'There is nothing that we can do," she said. "We are required to send it to DMV. They get mad with us, but we cannot help it.

"You just don't want to forget (tickets) anymore."

Other fee increases are:

-- Criminal: $121 to $125

-- Traffic: $121 to $130

-- Failure to comply: $0 to $25

-- Criminal record check: $15 to $25

-- Criminal jail: $18 to $40 per day

-- Civil district divorce: $165 to $167

-- Community service: $200 to $225

-- Estates filing: $61 to $88

-- Special proceedings (such as land sales, adoptions): $51 to $88.

It also will cost more for people whom the judge is allowing to pay in installments. A one-time fee of $20 has been added.