R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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Heavy Texas court fees used for wrong purposes

When someone faces criminal charges in Texas courts, not only do they face the prospect of spending time in court, but they are also expected to pay a series of costly court fees. The intent of the fees is to help maintain the court system, but an independent analysis recently revealed that those funds are being used for projects entirely unrelated to the courts. If you are dealing with a criminal case, it is important that you understand where your money is going.

One example of misappropriated court fees includes a fund created by lawmakers in 1997. Last year, Texas state budget managers found $135 million untouched in that account, so they reallocated the money to the general fund to be used for things entirely unrelated to the court system which the fund was intended to support.

A report released by a Texas newspaper reveals that those in criminal court may be paying up to $600 in fees that are not even used to support the court system. One state official commented that the practice of diverting state money in such a way "could be illegal or, at the very least, dishonest." Texans are being misled and forced to pay hundreds of dollars in court fees that are being used for non-judicial purposes.

One of the important aspects about this practice is that attorneys have difficulty explaining exactly why their clients have to pay exorbitant fees. In reality, no one really knows exactly what certain court fees are funding or why some even exist. It's unfortunate that attorneys desire to be helpful to their clients, but have no way of providing answers to important questions.

The revelation that up to one-third of court fees may be misappropriated is unwelcome news for those accused of a crime, especially if they are already in a difficult financial circumstance. This story demonstrates the need to have someone who will truly advocate for you in court. When you're required to pay hundreds of dollars in court fees, it's crucial that you have a knowledgeable advocate acting on your behalf to make sure you are treated fairly by the criminal court system.

Source: The River Cities Daily Tribune, "Stiff court fees levied in Texas, even when purposes vanish," Mar. 5, 2012

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