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Unofficial Opinion 96-10

Unofficial Opinion 96-10

May 10, 1996
To: 

Judge
State Court of Jackson County

Re: 

O.C.G.A. § 15-21-75 imposes liability for delinquent payments of sums imposed under the Peace Officer and Prosecutor Training Fund Act of 1983 upon the person, agency, or unit of government having the duties both of collection of those funds and remittance to the Department of Revenue. Georgia law now places that dual responsibility on the clerk of court.

You have requested an opinion of this office regarding O.C.G.A. § 15-21-75, which imposes a monetary penalty upon any person, agency, or unit of government obligated to do so which fails timely to remit to the Georgia Department of Revenue that portion of collected fines payable pursuant to the Peace Officer and Prosecutor Training Fund Act of 1983. Specifically, you ask whether the Department of Revenue may recover the delinquency charge from all persons or entities involved in the collection process or whether the charge is limited to the person, agency, or unit of government with the duty to transmit the funds to the department. You state in your letter that "[i]n Jackson County, these monies are remitted directly by the Clerk of State Court to the Department of Revenue, and are not distributed to any other agency or unit of government prior to remittance to the [department]."

In Op. Att'y Gen. 83-80, referred to in your letter, this office recognized that prosecuting attorneys, sheriffs, and clerks of court all had duties in connection with the collection of fines and forfeitures in criminal cases. 1983 Op. Att'y Gen. 83-80, p. 180-81. Following issuance of that opinion, however, the 1984 session of the General Assembly amended the law and changed the responsibilities of various court officers in collecting and remitting fines and forfeitures. 1984 Ga. Laws 842. These changes were addressed in Op. Att'y Gen. U85-20, which concluded that the responsibility for collecting and disbursing fines, forfeitures, recognizances, and costs "now lies with the clerk of court." 1985 Op. Att'y Gen. U85-20, p. 177.

The Peace Officer and Prosecutor Training Fund Act add-on amounts required by O.C.G.A. § 15-21-73 are to "be assessed and collected by the court officer charged with the duty of collecting moneys arising from fines and forfeited bonds and shall be paid over to the commissioner of revenue." O.C.G.A. § 15-21-74. "All moneys arising from fines and forfeitures shall . . . be distributed by the clerk of the court under order of the court to such persons and according to the priorities prescribed by law . . . ." O.C.G.A. § 15-21-4. The delinquency provisions of O.C.G.A. § 15-21-75 expressly hold responsible "any such person, agency, or unit of government whose duty it is to collect and pay over such moneys." (Emphasis added.) Under the circumstances you describe, it is the clerk of court who has the dual duties of collecting the funds and paying them over to the Department of Revenue. O.C.G.A. § 15-21-4, -21-74; see also 1970 Op. Att'y Gen. U70-85; 1985 Op. Att'y Gen. U85-20.

Therefore, it is my unofficial opinion that O.C.G.A. § 15-21-75 imposes liability for delinquent payments of sums imposed under the Peace Officer and Prosecutor Training Fund Act of 1983 only upon the person, agency, or unit of government that has the dual duties of collection of funds and remittance of those funds to the Department of Revenue. The person obligated by present law both to collect and remit those sums is the clerk of court.

Prepared by:

DARYL A. ROBINSON Deputy Counsel to the Attorney General