Court Costs

(WSVN) - He plead not guilty. He thought everything was taken care off till he got a bill for court costs and wondered, how can you be charged for court costs if you are not guilty? It’s why he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you hear the word “retirement,” you probably think “slow down,” “relax,” “take it easy.” That’s not what happened to Barry Forsyth.

Barry Forsyth: “I re-did the island and cabinets, refinished the ones around the rest of the kitchen, built a dining room table.”

And that’s not all…

Barry Forsyth: “I spend a lot of time scuba diving, spear fishing and lobstering and gardening some.”

Barry gets around. Unfortunately on one trip, he came across a cop with a radar gun.

Barry Forsyth: “And I got a ticket for 52 in a 35 zone, which I wasn’t doing that.”

Barry believes the officer clocked the car ahead of him and since he was sure he was not guilty, he hired a traffic attorney to fight it.

Barry Forsyth: “They put in a written plea of not guilty and the short of it is I was found as not guilty.”

After the court hearing, Barry got a letter from the attorney that said they were pleased to inform you the court withheld adjudication, no points were assessed and no conviction will appear on your record. But Barry was not happy with the next paragraph…

Barry Forsyth: “I am now being charged for $235 for court cost, which does not seem right. If I’m not guilty of anything, why should I be charged $235 in court cost.”

To Barry, the words withheld adjudication meant he was not found guilty. The cynic in him suspects he knows why he was hit with court costs.

Barry Forsyth: “I think most of these traffic tickets are just a revenue source for the county, the city.”

But can the courts make you pay if they didn’t find you guilty?

Barry Forsyth: “I’m hoping Help Me Howard can find out if I really have to pay that.”

Howard, Barry asked — you wanna answer?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Sure. If Barry had been found not guilty, he would not have to pay any fees, but courts are allowed to find a middle ground. Neither guilty nor not guilty… it’s called no contest and adjudication is withheld, meaning you are not legally convicted of the ticket or the crime, but you can be hit with court costs.”

We contacted the attorney who represented Barry. We were told their clients sign a document that guarantees no points and no traffic school. But in order to get adjudication withheld for Barry, they changed his plea to no contest. The attorney told us Barry signed a document that allowed them to change his plea.

Howard Finkelstein: “Even if you are convinced you are not guilty, sometimes it’s better to go with withheld adjudication because unless you have irrefutable proof, the judge will probably believe the officer over you when it come to a ticket, and you don’t want a conviction that jacks up your insurance rates.”

Barry Forsyth: “If they changed the plea to no contest, then I can understand why they put on the court costs.”

Barry doesn’t like it but he will now pay those court costs. He is not thrilled with his attorney either.

Barry Forsyth: “I figured that at least by courtesy they would have told me they were changing the plea but they didn’t do that.”

Now if you want to fight a ticket and plead not guilty, make sure that’s clear with your ticket attorney. That might affect the amount the attorney charges you because he might have to go to trial. For most people, it’s easier to pay the ticket attorney $60, $70, $80 to get adjudication withheld — that way you don’t have to go to court saving you a lot of time and trouble.

Courting a problem you want to speed away from? Feel like a solution is being withheld from you? Contact us. We don’t adjudicate you, but we will try to liberate you from your problem. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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