October 9, 1995
|TO:||Magistrates, Municipal Judges and Clerks of Court
|FROM:||Robert L. McCurdy, Staff Attorney
|RE:||Attorney General's Opinion Concerning the Distribution of Drug Fines|
Last year, Section 36 of the Permanent Provisions of the 1994-95 Appropriations Act completely changed the method of calculating the assessments to be added to fines as well as the way revenue generated by the courts is distributed. An assessment of 62% of the fine must be added to a fine levied in circuit or family courts (§ 14-1-206), an assessment of 88% of the fine must be added to a fine levied in magistrate's courts (§ 14-1-207), and an assessment of 52% of the fine must be added to a fine levied in municipal courts (§ 14-1-208). These funds are transmitted to your county or city treasurer, who retains the fines portion of the funds and transmits the assessments portion to the state treasurer for proper distribution. There are a few exceptions to these general rules, and they were outlined for you in a November 18, 1994 memorandum from Motte Talley of this office. The 1995-96 Appropriations Act added one exception to these general rules that applies only to magistrate's and municipal courts, and those courts have been notified by this office of the change. Otherwise, all requirements discussed above and in Mr. Talley's memorandum remain unchanged.
The question has arisen as to whether § 44-53-370(d)(3)(i) and (ii), concerning the distribution of fines levied for convictions of specified controlled substance violations including cocaine, marijuana and LSD, were repealed by Section 36 of the Permanent Provisions of the 1994-95 Appropriations Act, since they still appear in the 1994 Cumulative Supplement of the S.C. Code of Laws. Those sections required that the first $100 of the fine for a first offense and the $200 of the fine for second and subsequent offenses be distributed pursuant to § 44-53-580 (repealed by Section 36 as indicated in the Act and in the 1994 Cumulative Supplement), and that the remainder be distributed to the law enforcement agency who initiated the investigation which resulted in the conviction. An informal opinion of Mr. Robert Cook, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, is available upon request. This Opinion concluded that the General Assembly repealed § 44-53-370(d)(2)(i) and (ii) with the enactment of Section 36 of the Permanent Provisions of the 1994-95 Appropriations Act. Mr. Cook states that the 1994 Code supplement is unofficial and yields to the text of the Act, and the inclusion of Subsections (d)(3)(i) and (ii) was probably the result of printer's error. Therefore, when transmitting funds derived from drug offense conviction, the normal procedure described above should be followed. Your county or city treasurer should retain the entire amount of the fines portion of the funds and transmit the assessments portion to the state treasurer for proper distribution.