New $35 Fee For Jail Bonds Statewide

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GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- If you need to post bond for yourself or someone else to get out of county jail, it's going to cost you extra.

House Bill 688 went into effect Thursday, levying a $35 fee on all bonds.

The sheriff's office collects the fee, which must be in cash, cashier's check, or money order.

Marshall County Sheriff Scott Walls said this was not a suggestion of the sheriffs, and he thinks it is a bad decision.

Walls said many of the legislators who passed this promised not to raise taxes, which he said this does.

"Some people are saying it's a fee, a user fee, but basically it's a tax," Walls said.

"A tax is a tax and it puts families in a situation where you're bonding somebody out of jail, you've got to make that bond and then you've got to come up and pay this $35 fee."

While one counter-argument is to simply stay out of jail, Walls said the people footing the bill on these fees and bonds are often family members who aren't involved in the situation.

He also pointed out that the people held in county jail are also innocent until proven guilty.

"There's some people that get in trouble and get into the legal system that are not guilty of a crime, and they're taxed on with all these extra fees," Walls said.

A small portion of that fee goes to the sheriff's office, but Walls said they can only use the money for items like mattresses and uniforms.

The majority goes to other state departments, such as circuit clerk offices, the Department of Forensic Sciences, and the Alabama Peace Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund.

"Alabama is hurting for money, the counties are hurting for money, and we need that money, but I just didn't feel like this is the place to get it from," Walls said.

"There's other ways, other things we could have come up with for solutions."

There are also increased fees on some court filing fees, including civil and district court cases, but excluding child support.

There is a $26 increase for traffic cases, not including parking tickets.

Walls said in some cases, a $50 fine could become $500 after fees.

Several bond companies in south Alabama are filing a lawsuit against Governor Robert Bentley over the fees.

There will be a declaratory and injunctive release hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court Wednesday morning.

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