Penn Township scuttles fee for criminal processing
By Chris Foreman
Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
After a judge questioned the practice, Penn Township police have stopped charging criminal defendants a processing fee that was intended to raise money toward the potential purchase of a computerized fingerprinting system.
The $50 fee, which township commissioners passed in February, was going to be imposed on defendants arrested for felony, misdemeanor and summary criminal offenses.
But police scrapped it in April after determining the township didn't have the statutory authority through Pennsylvania law to impose the charge.
While sentencing some defendants last month for incidents in Penn Township, Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Alfred Bell requested clarification about the fee from township officials before ordering defendants to pay it, according to Henry Moore, Bell's law clerk.
Neither Rostraver nor North Huntingdon — the other first-class townships in the county — had a similar charge, Moore said.
“This was one we'd never heard about before,” he said.
Rachel Yantos, a solicitor for the township, told commissioners last month that only three or four arrests were processed with the fee included. She did not return messages requesting comment for this story.
The goal of the fee, police Chief John Otto said, was to recoup expenses related to the processing of criminal cases and to build up a fund in case the department has to purchase what's known as a live-scan system for fingerprint images, mug shots and other data within the next few years.
Otto, who estimated the cost of a new system could be between $35,000 and $50,000, said the intention was to charge the people involved in a suspected crime instead of having taxpayers cover the tab.
“Because these are so expensive, what municipality can go out and pick up $50,000 for a live-scan system?” he said.
The criminal-processing fee was among changes commissioners made to the township's fee schedule for such as township services, bond conditions and pavilion rentals.
The township's fee schedule previously had a $50 fee for processing cases of driving under the influence, although the township hadn't charged it for years, Otto said.
State law allows municipalities to receive full restitution from defendants in driving-under-the-influence cases for blood draws and an analysis by the state police crime lab.
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Former official suggests senior housing for Trafford lot
- Trafford’s long-vacant ‘bank building’ sold for $15,000
- Trafford seeks grant, loan to upgrade sewage system
- Penn Middle School student, 13, charged with terroristic threat, harassment