Council nixes controversial court fees

The Ashland City Council has decided not to adopt controversial Municipal Court fees in which people would have been charged $30 to $100 for requesting a trial or $25 if they wanted to set up a monthly payment plan.

The council also nixed a proposed $25 fee for people who enter a diversion program to keep an offense such as speeding off their record. Those in diversion programs still have to pay the original fine.

People who don't enter diversion and have speeding tickets on their driving records can get hit with higher car insurance rates.

Ashland Municipal Court Judge Pam Burkholder Turner had opposed the fees, which were proposed by the city's legal department. City legal staff act as prosecutors in Municipal Court.

"All of these fees create problems for administering justice," Burkholder Turner said, adding they could dissuade people from requesting a trial.

Under the proposal, a trial by judge would have meant a $30 to $60 fee, depending on the severity of the offense, and a jury trial a $100 fee.

"We want to have an open and accessible court system," she said.

Burkholder Turner said the fees could have caused the cost of the initial offense to balloon.

For example, if someone got a $145 speeding ticket, there is already a mandatory $45 state fee, pushing the cost to $190. If a person asked for a trial by judge and lost, went to a diversion program and needed to pay the fine and fees in installments, the total cost would have been $270.

City Councilman Russ Silbiger said he found the proposed $25 fee for setting up a monthly payment plan to be especially troublesome.

"The installment fee is like usury. The people who can't afford it get stuck with it," he said.

Councilman Greg Lemhouse agreed with Silbiger, and also said he didn't want to impede someone's right to a trial.

Council members unanimously voted against the controversial fees on Tuesday night.

They did approve more than a dozen other fees, such as $70 to $90 for asking for a trial by judge but then not appearing, and a $150 fee for asking for a jury trial and not showing up. A person who bounces a check when paying a fine will have to pay $25 plus bank costs.

Burkholder Turner and the city's legal department had reached agreement that those fees were appropriate.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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