Friday, June 16, 2017
C.A. Asks Supreme Court to Decide ‘Fee’ vs. ‘Fine’ Issue
Holds That Penalty Assessments May Be Added to Lab Fees and Drug Program Fees
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal in San Diego yesterday urged that the California Supreme Court take up the question of whether a penalty assessment can be added in drug cases to laboratory and drug program fees.
Writing for the Fourth District’s Div. One, Justice Judith Haller said in a footnote:
“We would welcome the California Supreme Court granting a review petition to resolve the conflict among the Courts of Appeal on this statutory construction issue. The judicial and public attorney resources devoted to the issue (including many published and nonpublished appellate decisions) have likely far outweighed the penalties collected. After this opinion was prepared and was being finalized for publication, the Third District filed an opinion on this same issue reaching the same conclusion as we have reached.”
That decision came on June 6.
In yesterday’s decision, the appeals court held that penalty assessment may be added to laboratory fees, capped by Health & Safety Code §11372.5 at $50, and drug program fees, which, under §11372.7 of that code are not to exceed $150.
Defendant Luis Alford, who pled guilty to possession of methamphetamine for sale, did not contest his prison term of eight years in custody or the three years four months he was to spend on mandatory supervision. He did argue that Penal Code §1464 and Government Code §76000, which mandate a penalty assessment “upon every fine, penalty, or forfeiture imposed and collected...for all criminal offenses” did not apply to the “fees” he was obliged to pay.
With the penalty assessments, the lab fee came to $205 and the drug program fee was increased to $615.
Those assessment were proper, Haller said, declaring:
“In reaching the conclusion that the assessments under sections 11372.5 and 11372.7 fall within the meaning of the penalty statutes’ ‘fine, penalty, or forfeiture’ language, we accept that there are budgetary reasons for these assessments.…However, the parties have not cited to any statutory language or legislative history showing funding for the services provided was the sole purpose of the assessments. Although the assessments can offset the cost of testing drugs confiscated from persons convicted of certain drug offenses and provide additional funding for drug prevention programs, this does not make an otherwise penal statute not punitive. A fine and fee system can serve deterrence and punishment objectives, and help mitigate the effects of crime. These goals are not mutually exclusive—any particular assessment can seek to achieve more than one of these goals. These multiple objectives do not evidence a legislative intent to exempt assessments imposed under either §11372.5 or §11372.7 from the mandatory penalties.
The case is People v. Alford, D070486.
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