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AGLO 1970 No. 021 - February 20, 1970
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                February 20, 1970
Honorable Arthur E. Sherman, Jr.
Prosecuting Attorney
Pacific County
P.O. Box 563
Raymond, Washington 98577
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 21
Re:  Overpayment of fine in
Pacific County, North
District Justice Court
Dear Mr. Sherman:
            It appears from your letter that some time ago the Grays River Logging Company apparently made a double payment to forfeit bail on a number of overweight violations for its trucks.  The weight violation tickets are, of course, written and issued to the driver of the vehicle.  As often happens on weight violations, the driver simply delivers the traffic citation to the trucking company, which in turn posts and forfeits the bail for the weight violation.  A representative of the Grays River Logging Company apparently delivered a check for $243 to the North District Justice Court of Pacific County for some nine weight violation citations.  After delivering the check, it was brought to the company's attention that one of the drivers had already paid a $35.00 bail for one of the included citations.  The company then wrote another check for $208 and delivered it to the court with the understanding that the first check would be destroyed.  The present problem arose when both checks were cashed by the court and deposited in the court account, instead of destroying the first check for $243.  As a result, there is no dispute that there has, in fact, been a double payment for some nine traffic citations, totalling $243.
            In light of the above circumstances, it appears that the officials are desirous of making a "refund" in the amount of $243, but the question is how such payment may be legally made.  Unfortunately, counties, unlike the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] state, do not appear to have a provision similar to RCW 43.88.170, which authorizes state agencies to make refunds of erroneous or excessive payments.  Although the county does not appear to have statutory authority for refund, the court, under RCW 3.62.010, could provide for a refund.  That statute specifically authorizes the court at the time of sentencing or any time thereafter to suspend a portion or all of a fine or penalty.  The court thus could enter an order suspending an amount of the fine equal to the overpayment and direct that repayment be made from the justice court suspense fund.
            We might in closing suggest that you contact the prosecuting attorney of Thurston county, who has recently had an experience which has similarities to your problem.  In Thurston county it appears that motorists for some time have been given speeding tickets which have resulted in fines and bail forfeitures on a certain road on which the posted speed was in fact less than the speed established by the county ordinance.  After this problem became known, arrangements were made to permit refunds of those fines and bails which had resulted from traffic citations on that particular stretch of road.
            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Edward B. Mackie
Deputy Attorney General
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