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Court security fee proffered

Published (3/23/2012)
By Mike Cook
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Courthouse security varies across the state with some buildings having weapons screening, while others have little more than a bailiff.

Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul) sponsors HF2000 that would authorize a county board to establish a court security fee of up to $15.

The bill was tabled by the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee March 15 for further discussion. There is no Senate companion.

As proposed, the fee would be collected from both sides in district court civil and criminal matters. For the latter, the fee could only be imposed once per case and would be imposed whether the sentence were imposed or stayed. No fee would be imposed for petty misdemeanors where the defendant pays a fine without a court appearance or no fine is part of the sentence.

Johnson said funds could be used to purchase, repair, upgrade and maintain security systems and equipment.

Randy Maluchnik, a Carver County commissioner and president of the Association of Minnesota Counties, spoke in support of the bill.

“Carver County is one of the few metro counties without weapons screening,” he said. “The cost to implement weapons screening in the county is a significant one-time cost estimated at $150,000 with ongoing operating costs at $250,000 per year. If there were a $15 court security fee, it is estimated the county would generate $123,000 annually. … Even with the security fee there would be a significant burden on the county’s main revenue source: the property tax.”

In Hennepin County, four of the eight courthouse facilities have some sort of weapons screening. “We confiscated over 3,400 different weapons from people who were attempting to enter our courtrooms during the last six months of 2011,” said Sheriff Rich Stanek. “Those weapons range from small pocketknives to handguns.”

Although he wouldn’t endorse the bill, Stanek said he hopes it encourages a discussion about greater courtroom security the state. “The time is now for state and county officials to come together on this.”

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