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AGO 1951 No. 415 - January 03, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES ‑- CURRENT EXPENSE FUND ‑- REFUNDS OF FORFEITED BAIL

Refunds of forfeited bail from highway traffic violations may be paid out of the county current expense fund.

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                                                                  January 3, 1951

Honorable Maloy Sensney
Prosecuting Attorney, Benton County
Fisk Building
Prosser, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 415

Attention:  Herbert H. Davis, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            This is in reply to your inquiry of December 6, 1950, and as further amplified by your letter of December 26, 1950, in which you requested our opinion on whether a refund of forfeited bail for traffic violation can be made out of the county current expense fund.  For the purposes of this question, you state that we are to assume that vouchers for the refunds were properly issued.

            Our conclusion may be stated as follows:

            Refunds of forfeited bail from highway traffic violations may be paid out of the county current expense fund.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            We have been unable to discover any statutory provisions covering refunds on forfeited bails.  Section 1, chapter 45, Laws of 1945 (5634-1 Rem. Supp. 1945) provides:

            "Every county shall maintain a current expense fund to which shall be credited all taxes levied for that purpose and all fees collected, fines  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] assessed and forfeitures adjudged in the county the proceeds of which have not been specifically allocated to any other purpose."

            Section 3, chapter 75, Laws of 1949 (§ 6312-83 Rem. Supp. 1949) provides:

            "All fines and forfeitures collected for violation of any of the provisions of this act when the violation occurred outside of any incorporated city or town shall be distributed and paid into the proper funds for the following purposes:  One‑half shall be paid into the county road fund of the county in which the violation occurred; one‑fourth into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund.

            "All fines and forfeitures collected for the violation of any of the provisions of this act when the violation occurred inside any incorporated city or town shall be distributed and paid into the proper funds for the following purposes:  One‑half shall be paid into the city street fund for the construction and maintenance of city streets; one‑fourth into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund."

            The forfeitures herein were credited to the funds named in section 3 above, since the violations were against the state traffic laws.  Consequently, it is our opinion that no refund could be made from these funds.  Monies deposited to the credit of the State become the property of the State and cannot be paid out except through an appropriation by the legislature.  Opinion to prosecuting attorney of King county, February 8, 1918.

            We also feel that the monies credited to the county road fund or to the city street fund, whichever the case may be, should not be used for the purposes of refunding forfeited bail.

            Consequently, it is the opinion of this office that the county current expense fund, though not the recipient of the forfeited bails in this instance, may be used to make the refunds.  There is no statutory prohibition against using the current expense fund for this purpose, and we accordingly feel that it would be a proper fund from which to make these refunds.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            We also suggest as an alternative method, that refunds could be made from monies held currently by the justice of the peace as fines and forfeitures.  Although we could discover no statutory sanction for this practice, we likewise could find nothing prohibiting this method.  The Division of Municipal Corporations recommends this procedure and informs us that it is a common practice in many of the counties.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

ROBERT L. SIMPSON
Assistant Attorney General

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