Legislation Sought To Authorize County Probation Fees

Attorney General Spitzer today urged state lawmakers to approve legislation granting county governments full authority to impose probation fees.

"Local governments incur significant costs in overseeing individuals on probation, and where the probationers have financial resources, it is appropriate that they share in these costs," Spitzer said. "State legislation authorizing the imposition of such fees is particularly important now, because so many local governments are facing difficult fiscal times."

The Attorney General's office recently reviewed the issue of probation fees at the request of Essex County officials. The county had asked the Attorney General's office to review the legality of its proposed probation fee.

In response, the Attorney General's office issued an advisory opinion noting that while the Legislature has granted counties the authority to levy fees in certain DWI cases and certain child custody cases, counties do not have general authority to impose such fees.

Several counties across the state have already passed local laws imposing a wide variety of fees that may be preempted by state law. As a result, statewide legislation is needed to provide the statutory authorization for those fees, Spitzer said.

"It appears that some counties, acting in good faith, have sought to ensure that a portion of the costs of probation services be paid not by taxpayers, but rather by those probationers who have the financial ability to make such payments," Spitzer said. "This is sound public policy, and the State Legislature should take steps to explicitly grant local governments the authority to adopt such measures."