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AGLO 1977 No. 1 - January 06, 1977
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTIES ‑- COURTS ‑- FISH ‑- FINES ‑- DISPOSITION OF FINES AND COSTS COLLECTED FOR FISHING LAW VIOLATIONS

Where, in connection with a prosecution in superior court for a violation of state fishing laws, there has been a change of venue from the county in which the action was commenced to another where the trial took place, and a fine was assessed and collected, the county entitled to retain fifty percent of that fine under RCW 75.08.230 is the one in which (1) the trial took place in superior court resulting in a judgment assessing the fine and (2) the fine is collected by the superior court to be remitted to the county treasurer.

                                                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                  January 6, 1977

Honorable David F. Thiele
Prosecuting Attorney
Island County Court House
Coupeville, Washington 98239

Honorable Michael C. Redman
Prosecuting Attorney
San Juan County
Friday Harbor, Washington 98250                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1977 No. 1


Gentlemen:

            By letter previously acknowledged you asked for our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Where, in connection with a prosecution in superior court for violation of state fishing laws, there has been a change of venue from the county in which the action was commenced to another where the trial took place and a fine was assessed and collected, which county, in accordance with RCW 75.08.230, is entitled to retain the moneys received?

            We answer this question in the manner set forth in the following analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The issue addressed in this opinion involves the interpretation of RCW 75.08.230 which concerns the administration and enforcement of the State Fisheries Code.  An action was filed in the San Juan county superior court by the prosecuting attorney of that county charging violations of certain provisions of the State Fisheries Code.  All proceedings preliminary to trial occurred there.  Subsequently, however, a change of venue was granted and the San Juan county prosecutor then tried the action in the Island county superior court.  A judgment of guilty was entered and a fine was  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] assessed and collected.

            RCW 75.08.230 provides, in relevant part, as follows:

            "All license fees, taxes, fines, and moneys realized from the sale of property seized or confiscated under the provisions of this title, and all bail moneys forfeited under prosecutions instituted under the provisions of this title, and all moneys realized from the sale of any of the property, real or personal, heretofore or hereafter acquired for the state and under the control of the department, such moneys as are realized from the sale of food fish or shellfish caught or taken during test fishing operations conducted by the department for the purpose of food fish or shellfish resource evaluation studies, all moneys collected for damages and injuries to any such property, and all moneys collected for rental or concessions from such property, shall be paid into the state treasury general fund:  Provided, That salmon taken in test fishing operations shall not be sold except during a season open to commercial fishing in the district that test fishing is being conducted:  Provided further, That fifty percent of all money received as fines together with all of the costs shall be retained by the county in which the fine was collected.

            "All fines collected shall be remitted monthly by the justice of the peace or by the clerk of the court collecting the same to the county treasurer of the county in which the same shall be collected, and the county treasurer shall at least once a month remit fifty percent of the same to the state treasurer and at the same time shall furnish a statement to the director showing the amount of fines so remitted and from whom collected:  Provided, That in instances wherein any portion of a fine assessed by a court is suspended, deferred, or otherwise not collected, the entire amount collected shall be remitted by the county treasurer to the state treasurer and shall be credited to the general fund:  Provided further, 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.

            ". . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Specifically, the language at issue in RCW 75.08.230 is found in the above underscored proviso which states:

            ". . .Provided further, That fifty percent of all money received as fines together with all of the costs shall be retained by the county in which the fine was collected."

            In interpreting this statutory provision, certain rules of construction are applicable.  The essential object of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature.  Hartman v. State Game Commission, 85 Wn.2d 176, 179, 532 P.2d 614 (1975).  This objective is accomplished by reading the statute in its entirety and by looking to other portions of the act to determine the meaning of doubtful or ambiguous provisions.  In re Bracken's Estate, 56 Wn.2d 17, 19, 351 P.2d 151 (1960).  Words used in a statute must be given their usual, ordinary and commonly accepted meaning.  State v. Jones, 84 Wn.2d 823, 830, 529 P.2d 1040 (1974).

            Here, as we view it, the meaning of the phrase "retained by the county in which the fine was collected" is delineated in the ensuing paragraph of RCW 75.08.230.  There the statute provides that "in instances wherein any portion of a fine assessed by a court is suspended, deferred, or otherwise not collected, the entire amount collected shall be remitted . . . to the state treasurer."  From this it is apparent that the term "collected" necessarily contemplates a fine having been assessed and collected pursuant to entry of a valid judgment in superior court for violation of state fishing laws.  The same paragraph also says that all fines "collected shall be remitted . . . by the clerk of the court collecting the same to the county treasurer of the county in which the [fine is] collected."  From this language it is evident that when a fine is collected by the clerk of the superior court from which a judgment assessing a fine issued, it is to be remitted to the county treasurer.  The statute, consistent with the proviso with which you are concerned, then requires the county treasurer to remit the other fifty percent of the fine to the state treasurer.

            The meaning of that proviso quoted above is thus fully amplified by subsequent portions of the statute.  The county entitled to retain fifty percent of the fine is that one in which (1) a trial takes place in superior court resulting in a judgment assessing a fine, and (2) the fine is collected by the clerk of the court to be remitted to the county treasurer.  In this case, based upon the facts which have given rise to your request, that county is Island county.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            To this we would only add, in closing, the following additional comment:  As you both know, practically all criminal trials occur in the county in which the offence occurred.  Thus, under RCW 75.08.230 the county which incurs the costs of law enforcement and the prosecution of the offense will normally be the beneficiary of one‑half of the fines collected under chapter 75.08 RCW.  Unfortunately, the legislature has not provided a means for further apportionment of the revenue derived from those fines when a change in venue is granted.  Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that in the instant proceeding a majority of the costs were probably incurred by San Juan county, only Island county, wherein the trial took place, is entitled to retain one‑half of the fines collected in accordance with the explicit direction of the legislature in RCW 75.08.230.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


BRYAN L. FISCHNALLER
Assistant Attorney General

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