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Illegal court costs uncovered in Walker County

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LAFAYETTE, GA (Times Free Press) -

Walker County's State Court judge has charged illegal court costs in more than 40 cases this year.

Judge Billy Mullinax has dismissed at least 47 cases after either the victim or the defendant paid the court costs, a practice that is illegal in Georgia. The specific amount of money paid changed from case to case, court records show, but usually Mullinax charged $138. In the 47 cases pulled from court files, defendants and victims paid the court $8,597.

But, according to Article 1, Section 1, Paragraph 14 of the Georgia Constitution, nobody can be forced to pay money in a criminal case unless that person has been convicted. And, 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.

"Under Georgia law, courts cannot demand court costs of criminal defendants whose cases are nolle prossed [not prosecuted]," Sarah Geraghty, a senior attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights, told the Times Free Press in September when the paper revealed similar tactics in the Chattooga County State Court. "The Georgia Constitution and Georgia Code expressly prohibit courts from collecting costs from a criminal defendant in the absence of the defendant's conviction."

Read more from our news partner the Times Free Press.

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