Originally created 05/12/02

Traffic fines take various routes

Ever wonder what happened to the $100 fine you paid on that speeding ticket?

Well, none of it went to the officer who wrote the ticket. Nor do local departments depend on fines to fund their operations.

"We don't plan our budget on how many tickets we had in the past, hoping we get enough," said Sgt. David Turno of the Aiken Department of Public Safety. "Speeding-ticket fines are not a source that is always there."

In South Carolina, about half of the money from fines stays in the general fund of the city or county where the ticket is written. General fund money pays for garbage pickup, city administration, police and fire operations and other operating expenses.

In Aiken, however, speeding tickets provide a small percentage of the money in the general fund. In fiscal year 2000-01, the city collected about $284,000 in municipal court fines - which includes misdemeanor criminal charges and traffic violations. The city's budget for the fiscal year was $31.5 million.

In Georgia, about 70 percent of the money from fines stays in the county or city where the ticket is written. But that doesn't mean fines cover all of the police budget.

In Thomson, the annual police budget is about $600,000. Traffic fines bring in about $140,000 to the city's general fund.

"(Fines) in no way pay salaries or any of that kind of stuff in the police department. We're not self-supporting like the water or gas (departments)," said Thomson Chief John Hathaway.

Traffic ticket fines in Georgia also go to state retirement funds for court clerks, probate judges and sheriffs.

In terms of a $100 ticket:

  • In Georgia, $89.25 goes to the municipality for the general fund. The rest - $10.75 of the $100 ticket - goes to the retirement funds.
  • In South Carolina, $50 goes to the municipality's general fund and $50 goes to a handful of state programs, including one that tries to deter young offenders from future criminal activity by exposing them to jail experiences. But 12 percent of the money designated for the state - about $6 from a $100 ticket - remains in the city, earmarked by law for victims-witness advocates, which are usually employed by the local police or prosecutor.
  • Georgia has a similar requirement. But the state adds surcharges to the ticket that funds victims' assistance. In the case of a $100 fine, $5 is added and given to local victims' assistance programs.

    Georgia also adds 10 percent for a county jail fund, which helps pay for staffing and construction of local jails. An additional 10 percent goes to the state law enforcement and prosecutor training fund.

    In reality in Georgia, a $100 fine is actually a $125 fine.


    A $100 fine in Georgia:

  • $10 goes to police and prosecutor training
  • $10 goes to a state fund for county jails
  • $5 goes to local victim assistance programs
  • $5 goes to a peace officers' annuity and benefit fund
  • $1.75 goes to a Superior Court clerks retirement fund
  • $2 goes to a Probate Court judges retirement fund
  • $2 goes to a sheriff's retirement fund
  • The rest goes to a general fund
  • A $100 fine in South Carolina:

  • $6 goes to local victims' assistance
  • $50 goes to the city
  • $44 goes to state programs
  • Staff writer Greg Rickabaugh contributed to the story.

    Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.


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