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AGLO 1978 No. 25 - August 23, 1978
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS ‑- FEES ‑- FINES ‑- DISTRIBUTION OF VARIOUS FINES IMPOSED BY SUPERIOR COURTS

(1) Except as provided by some other law to the contrary in a particular case, RCW 10.82.070 requires that all fines imposed by a superior court be transmitted by the county treasurer to the state general fund.

(2) The provisions of RCW 10.82.070 are applicable to the distribution of fines imposed by a superior court following a defendant's conviction therein on appeal from his or her earlier conviction by a district justice court.

(3) Likewise, the provisions of RCW 10.82.070 are applicable with respect to any fines imposed by a division of the superior court functioning as a juvenile court with respect to juvenile traffic offenders.

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                                                                 August 23, 1978

Honorable Greg M. Devlin
Prosecuting Attorney
Room 202, Stevens County Courthouse
P.O. Box 390
Colville, Washington 99114                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1978 No. 25

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have posed the following questions to us regarding the scope and effect of RCW 10.82.070:

            "(1) Under RCW 10.82.070, are all Superior Court fines distributed by the county treasurer to the state general fund, or are some of these monies properly deposited elsewhere?

            "(2) If the defendant appeals a District Court finding, and is subsequently found guilty in Superior Court, and receives a fine (particularly if the charge is a traffic offense), how are these fines to be distributed by the county treasurer?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "(3) What is to be done with the revenue generated when a juvenile is found guilty of a traffic offense in Juvenile Court?  In our county, juvenile traffic offenders are tried in Juvenile Court, not District Court."

            We answer your questions as set forth below.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 10.82.070 reads, in full, as follows:

            "Except as otherwise provided by law, all sums of money derived from fines imposed for violation of orders of injunction, mandamus and other like writs, or for contempt of court, and the net proceeds of all fines collected within the several counties of the state for breach of the penal laws, and all funds arising from the sale of lost goods and estrays, and from penalties and forfeitures, shall be paid in cash by the person collecting the same, within twenty days after the collection, to the county treasurer of the county in which the same have accrued, and shall be by him transmitted to the state treasurer, for deposit in the general fund:  PROVIDED, That all fees, fines, forfeitures and penalties collected or assessed by a justice court because of the violation of a state law shall be remitted as provided in chapter 3.62 RCW as now exists or is later amended."

            Question (1):

            Clearly, in our opinion, RCW 10.82.070, supra, is applicable to fines imposed and collected by a superior court.  By its own express terms, the proviso at the end of the statute only carves out an exception in the case of fines imposed and collected by a justice court, in apparent recognition of the special provisions of chapter 3.62 RCW relating to the disposition of all justice court income.  Therefore, in the ordinary case, RCW 10.82.070 requires the county clerk and treasurer to remit superior court fines to the state general fund by reason of its opening phrase.

            At the same time, it seems evident that by its opening phrase "Except as otherwise provided by law . . .," RCW 10.82.070, supra, also contemplates the possibility of other exceptions as well‑-based upon conflicting statutory provisions dealing with other specific categories of fines, fees, penalties or forfeitures.  We will  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] not here attempt, however, to list any and all such "conflicting provisions" which may be in existence at the present time.  Instead, we believe it sufficient to advise you that, in our judgment, what RCW 10.82.070 means is that a county clerk who is in receipt of monies representing fines imposed by a superior court should then dispose of those funds in the manner provided for by that statute unless, in a particular case, some other law provides for a different disposition with respect to the particular category of superior court fines involved.  In short, before disposing of any such receipts in a manner contrary to RCW 10.82.070 a county clerk should be prepared to point to some specific statute which requires him (or her) to do so.

            Question (2):

            Next (repeated for ease of reference) you have asked:

            "If the defendant appeals a District Court finding, and is subsequently found guilty in Superior Court, and receives a fine (particularly if the charge is a traffic offense), how are these fines to be distributed by the county treasurer?"

            The issue raised by this question is whether RCW 10.82.070, supra, applies in this case to the exclusion of such contrary provisions as are contained in chapter 3.62 RCW.  Based upon our state supreme court's prior rulings to the effect that a trial in superior court on appeal from a justice court conviction is de novo‑-and that, as a consequence, the superior court may impose a greater fine than was imposed by the justice court1/ ‑-we answer in the affirmative; i.e., it is our opinion that any fines so imposed are to be paid like any other superior court fines, into the state general fund unless a particular statute in a particular case requires some other type of distribution.  In essence, in such a case, the fine is imposed by the superior court and not by the justice court, following the defendant's conviction in superior court of the offense with which he has been charged.  Moreover, this is so regardless of whether the fine imposed by the superior court is greater, lesser or the same as was earlier imposed by the justice court following the defendant's earlier conviction therein.  Accordingly, the alternative provisions of chapter 3.62 RCW are simply inapplicable since, by their own terms, those provisions only apply to fines imposed by a justice court.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]Question (3):

            Finally, explaining that in your county juvenile traffic offenders are tried in juvenile court, a division of the superior court, and not in your district justice court, you have asked:

            "What is to be done with the revenue generated when a juvenile is found guilty of a traffic offense in Juvenile Court? . . ."

            Once again, in our opinion, the applicable statute will be RCW 10.82.070,supra, together with anyother extrensic statutes to the contrary‑-exluding the contrary statutes contained in chapter 3.62 RCW.  It is not the nature of the offense with which a defendant has been charged that is determinative of whether chapter 3.62 RCW, on the one hand, or RCW 10.82.070, on the other, applies.  Rather, the determining factor is that of which court, the justice court or the superior court (or a division thereof), has assumed jurisdiction over the offense and imposed the resulting monetary fine or penalty.

            This completes our consideration of your several questions.  It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, e.g.,State v. Hagimori, 57 Wash. 623, 107 Pac. 855 (1910).

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