More than 250 Georgia defendants who were told to pay a total of $55,574 in court costs in Chattooga County State Court between 2007 and September now can get their cash back.

Court Clerk Sam Cordle said his office sent letters last week to defendants who paid court costs in cases in which they were not found guilty, a practice that is illegal.

State Court Judge Sam Finster admitted to the Times Free Press that he and Solicitor Sanford "Buddy" Hill charged those costs on cases that were "nolle prosequi," or not prosecuted. But, according to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 15-13-35, a prosecutor cannot charge costs in a case if the court did not find the defendant guilty. Finster said he did not know such a practice was illegal until talking to a reporter in August.

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