New State Law May Reduce County Revenue From Court Cases

By Jeremy Coumbes on September 6, 2019 at 10:11am

Counties around the state might begin seeing reduced revenue when it comes to their local court fines, fees, and costs.

A new state law enacted on July 1st streamlines court fines and fees in Illinois’ circuit courts and how it can collect them. It also allows low-income individuals who are unable to pay their court fines to petition for those fees to be waived.

Morgan County State’s Attorney Gary Noll commented on how this has already had an effect here in Morgan County.

It gets rid of a few of the mandatory fines and fees, that were ordered under the old system are replaces it with a different system where different crimes fall under different scheduled assessments kind of cap the amount of money that goes to certain specific agencies. An example of that is under the old system, an individual who is convicted of a crime in Morgan County, generally speaking was ordered to pay a $30.00 Child Advocacy Center fine. For every criminal case that occurred, $30.00 of the fine would go to the budget of the Child Advocacy Center. The new ordinance caps that at a specific $20.00 per county fee, so that specifc one has changed along with a variety of others.”

Public Act 100-0987 — the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act — was signed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner on August 20th, 2018.

Among other changes, the law makes all criminal court fees consolidated to unified schedules, realigns fees so that they comply with the Illinois Constitution and allows for full or partial fee waivers for low-income individuals if specified conditions are met.

The amount of fines fees and costs that is ordered by the court now for criminal cases, didn’t change that dramatically, however the new bill does mandate that a court wave the requirement that any defendant has to pay these fines fees and costs, if an individual meets a certain lack of income requirements. If they are determined to be an indigent person as defined by the statute.”

The new law will have an effect on the budgets of a number of county departments, including the circuit clerk’s office, state’s attorney’s office, probation office and sheriff’s office.

How this will effect Morgan County specifically is hard to tell, this just went into effect July 1st. Obviously Morgan County is a small county and our real estate taxes are generally low compared to other counties. Part of the revenue brought in by the county is through the criminal justice system, and this will probably change the amount of revenue that is brought in to the county as a whole, but it is difficult to know, without having gone through at least one year under this new law.”

The long-term effect of these changes, especially in rural circuits, isn’t likely to take hold until later next year during the county’s FY2021 budgeting process.