Attorney General Opinions

June 27, 2014

Legislative News

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TAC has highlighted recent Attorney General Opinions and Requests for Opinions of interest to counties. 

Attorney General Opinions

GA-1063: Assessment and distribution of criminal court costs (RQ-1171-GASummary: The fee imposed under article 102.005 of the Code of Criminal Procedure applies to a defendant convicted of an offense in a county-level court. A defendant whose conviction from a municipal court of record was affirmed at the county-court level would not be subject to the fees imposed under article 102.005 because the conviction occurred at the municipal level. Unlike an appeal from a municipal court of record, however, a defendant appealing a conviction from a municipal court that is not a court of record may be convicted at the county court level following a trial de novo. Certain court costs and fees will be assessed for each convicted offense of a defendant, while others will be assessed once per case, and a determination about a specific cost or fee will require a review of the statute or rule imposing that cost. While articles 42.03 and 45.041 of the Code of Criminal Procedure authorize a court to give a defendant credit only for time served from the time of arrest and confinement until sentencing by the trial court, other provisions authorize certain courts to use a defendant's time served to satisfy court fines and costs in specific instances. Whether a convicted defendant may be given credit toward outstanding court costs will require analyzing specific facts against the relevant statute authorizing the credit. Article 102.011(a)(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure authorizes a court to assess a separate fee for each arrest warrant issued even when multiple warrants result in only one arrest. Article 102.011(a)(6) of the Code of Criminal Procedure authorizes a $5 fee for commitment or release services performed in the case by a peace officer. A court could conclude that any commitment or release from jail after the conclusion of the case will not be a service performed in the case and that article 102.0ll(a)(6) does not authorize fees for those services.

GA-1068: Implementation of section 601.123 of the Transportation Code, concerning the establishment of financial responsibility by making a deposit with the county judge (RQ-1176-GASummary: An additional deposit of at least $55,000 with the county judge is required to establish financial responsibility under section 601.123 of the Transportation Code for a second vehicle if financial responsibility for that vehicle has not otherwise been established through an authorized method. The owner of a vehicle may provide evidence of financial responsibility for an additional driver only if the other person is employed by the owner or is a member of the owner's immediate family or household pursuant to section 601.054(a) of the Transportation Code. In the absence of any other statutory or regulatory guidance, a court could conclude that a county judge may deposit funds received pursuant to section 601.123 of the Transportation Code into a separate account in the county depository and use his or her discretion to decide whether that account should be an interest-bearing account. Interest earned on funds deposited with the county judge under section 601.123 of the Transportation Code belongs to the person making the deposit. In the absence of statutory authority, a county may not collect an administrative fee in connection with a deposit of funds made to a county judge under section 601.123 of the Transportation Code.

Requests for Attorney General Opinions

RQ-1203-GA: The Honorable Craig Watkins, Dallas County Criminal District Attorney, Authority of Dallas County, under Labor Code section 62.0515 and the County Purchasing Act, to require payment of a wage higher than the state-mandated minimum wage to employees of county contractors.

RQ-1205-GA: The Honorable Rafael Anchia, Chair, Committee on International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs, Charitable organization’s tax exemption under section 11.18, Tax Code, for property leased to a limited partnership for the construction of improvements to be used to expand the charitable services. 

RQ-1206-GAMr. Steven E. Watson, Palo Pinto County Auditor, Authority of a third party, pursuant to a contract under section 103.0031 of the Code Criminal Procedure, to make changes to a court’s docket, documents, or records.

RQ-1207-GA: The Honorable Lori J. Kaspar, Hood County Attorney, Disposition of surplus property purchased with proceeds of the sheriff’s commissary account.