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Oklahoma lawyer explains impact of bill removing court fines, fees for certain offenders

(NiseriN / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
(NiseriN / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
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Earlier this month, a bill that would get rid of court fines and fees for certain criminals passed unanimously in the Oklahoma Senate.

Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, said his bill, SB 1458, was introduced at Governor Kevin Stitt's request.

This bill could cost the state $28 million a year.

"I definitely believe if somebody violates the law, there should be a little bit of a sting to it," said Thompson. "But they shouldn't have to carry the full burden of funding our court system."

Tulsa Attorney Todd Tucker said he supports the bill.

Since McGirt cases can't be heard by the state, Tucker believes it's hurting courts.

"It has caused them to drive up the court costs and fees so high to cover the revenue loss," he said.

He said most of those charged with crimes are people working hourly jobs who can't afford the fees.

"It's become so astronomical people cannot pay it," said Tucker.

Some people could just skim through this bill and say that it seems like it is giving criminals a discount by not making them pay these fees. So, what would Tucker say to that?

"I'd say they don't have the criminal justice system works," he responded. "The fines and costs are set to drive and pay salaries for the district attorneys in the district courts, the district court system, they have nothing to do with helping people get back on their feet or anything like that."

The bill would impact the state's yearly revenue streams, which essentially is taxpayer money.

"You must look at it this way, if a person goes back into miss more crimes because they can't pay their fines and costs and are stealing to pay that, it's going to cost the taxpayer either way," said Tucker.

The governor's office issued the following statement after the bill's passage from the committee:

The governor applauds Senator Thompson’s efforts to modernize and improve Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.

If the bill becomes law, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.


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