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Cost of being convicted in Westmoreland County on the rise

Rich Cholodofsky
| Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, 8:57 p.m.
Starting Nov. 1, criminal defendants will pay 2.9 percent more in fees for each case processed by Westmoreland County's Clerk of Courts office as well as other services, such as filing appeals and purchasing copies.
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Starting Nov. 1, criminal defendants will pay 2.9 percent more in fees for each case processed by Westmoreland County's Clerk of Courts office as well as other services, such as filing appeals and purchasing copies.

The cost of being convicted of a crime in Westmoreland County is going up.

Starting Nov. 1, criminal defendants will pay 2.9 percent more in fees for each case processed by the county's Clerk of Courts office as well as other services, such as filing appeals and purchasing copies.

“We're increasing our revenues, and these are obligations for being processed by the court system,” Clerk of Courts Bryan Kline said.

County President Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. signed an order this month approving Kline's request for the higher fees.

Kline, a Republican in his second elected term, is permitted by state law to increase fees assessed by his office every three years. The increase is based on the cost of inflation set by the Department of Labor.

Kline imposed a 6 percent fee hike in 2013.

Court fees charged by the state and assessed by the county are not subjected to the increase going into effect next month. But an increase of state fees is expected to be implemented early next year, Kline said.

Defendants pay court fees on criminal cases processed by the county office.

The average court costs for a defendant charged for the first time with a drunk driving offense, for example, is more than $1,890, Kline said.

The Clerk of Courts office collected more than $2.9 million in court fees last year. The increase is expected to generate more than $86,500 in new revenue for the county's budget, Kline said.

A portion of total court fees collected by the clerk's office was allocated to operate the county's fledgling drug court. The program, which provides counseling, treatment and court oversight of 50 defendants, started in 2015.

The $300,000 program is funded equally through private donations, the county and money collected by Kline's office.

Court fees represent nearly half of the total cash collected by the clerk of courts. Kline's office last year took in more than $6 million, including about $3 million in restitution payments made by defendants. That money is distributed to crime victims.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293.

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