Weekly Case Summaries: February 8, 2019

Texas Courts of Appeals

Johnson v. State

No. 14-18-00273              2/5/19

Issue:

Is the timely payment fee in Local Gov’t Code §133.103(b) and (d) facially unconstitutional?

Holding:

Yes. The timely payment fee is a late fee assessed when a defendant fails to timely pay a fine, cost, or restitution after conviction. Ten percent of the fee is directed to the general fund “for the purpose of improving efficiency of administrative justice.” The remaining 90 percent, which is directed to the general fund without limitations or restrictions on its use, is facially unconstitutional because it does not reimburse the county or State for expenses incurred during a defendant’s prosecution, nor is there a statutory directive that the funds be used for a legitimate criminal justice purpose. Read opinion.

Commentary:

This court cost and/or fee case is unusual in that it does not arise out of Harris County, where most of the court cost and/or fee jurisprudence has arisen in the last few years. Apart from that, this is a case in which the court of appeals felt bound by the 2017 decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals in Salinas v. State. It may be that the Court of Criminal Appeals will review this decision because the court has granted the State’s petition for discretionary review in Allen v. State, No. PD-1042-18, in which the State—in part—has asked the court to overrule Salinas. The bottom line for practitioners is that we have not heard the last about court costs and/or fees. The bottom line for the defendant is that, among all of the court costs and/or fees that were imposed (most of which were upheld), a $25.00 fee was changed to $2.50.

Announcements:

Obtaining Backpage.com historical information

For those prosecutors who are still waiting on historical Backpage.com ads as evidence in pending cases, the federal agencies in control of that information are now accepting new requests for that ad information. Instructions for investigators and prosecutors is available here.

State Bar now taking scholarship applications for upcoming training

The Criminal Justice Section is taking applications for scholarships for various courses. You must be a current member of the Criminal Justice Section to apply. Preference will be given to lawyers licensed 5 years or less. A list of courses and the scholarship application may be accessed here.

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