Crime

You get a traffic ticket in Columbus: Where does the money go?

Are you sure you didn’t just run that red light?

During the recent crackdowns on distracted driving, Columbus police were also citing drivers for ordinary traffic violations, such as running red lights. “It’s a problem,” Lt. Clyde Dent said last week as he directed the operation on Victory Drive
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During the recent crackdowns on distracted driving, Columbus police were also citing drivers for ordinary traffic violations, such as running red lights. “It’s a problem,” Lt. Clyde Dent said last week as he directed the operation on Victory Drive

You are busted. The Columbus police officer has you dead to right for running that stop sign a half a mile from your house.

He or she pulls out the ticket book and cites you for a violation of Georgia Code, 40-6-72, failure to stop at a stop sign.

No need to fight it. You did the crime and it’s time to pay the fine, which is going to cost you $166.50 if you got to Columbus Recorder’s Court and pay it prior to the court date.

Here’s the question: Where does that money go?

Good question. Here is the breakdown:

▪  $100 of that is the base fine set by Recorder’s Court Judge Julius Hunter. Of that $5 goes to a Peace Officer’s annuity and benefits fund and $2 to the sheriff’s office. That leaves $93 for the city’s general fund budget.

But that’s not the end of it, there are $66.50 for fees and add-ons to that ticket.

Here is a breakdown of where that money — which is collected by the city and disbursed to the various funds — is mandated:

▪  Sheriff bond fee — $20

▪  Criminal Justice fee goes to the state — $10

▪  Indigent defense fee goes to the state for public defenders — $10

▪  Training fund goes to Georgia Public Safety Training Center — $10

▪  Victim assistance fund goes to the state and is administered by the district attorneys — $5

▪  City administrative — $5

▪  Law library fee goes to operate a law library in the Columbus Government Center — $5

▪  Driver education training goes to state — $1.50

All of the above dollar amounts can change from citation to citation based on the base fine. The eight fees or add-ons are based on a percentage of the base fine.

So, how much money are we talking about?

In the first 10 months of 2017, the Columbus Recorder’s Court has taken in $3.765 million in fines, fees and court costs, according to information obtained through Georgia’s Open Records Act. This is not just traffic citations, but also for Environmental Court and fines for non-felony charges.

Here is how that breaks down by month:

▪  January — $345,306.90

▪  February —$376,471.98

▪  March — $559,956.77

▪  April — $362,468.57

▪  May — $364,045.76

▪  June — $387,565.06

▪  July — $313,161.32

▪  August —$344,895.07

▪  September — $357,846.24

▪  October — $353,992.39

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams

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