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A.Z. v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

April 28, 2017

A.Z.
v.
State of Alabama

         Appeal from Mobile Circuit Court (CC-15-6957; CC-15-6958; CC-15-6959; CC-15-6960)

          WELCH, Judge.

         A.Z. was adjudicated a youthful offender upon pleading guilty to four offenses. In addition to a sentence of incarceration -- which was suspended -- fines, and court costs, A.Z. paid, upon his seeking bail, a $35 bail-bond- filing fee, pursuant to § 12-19-311(a)(1)a, Ala. Code 1975. Upon his disposition as a youthful offender, A.Z. was ordered to pay a $700 bail-bond fee, pursuant to § 12-19-311(a)(1)b, Ala. Code 1975.

         Prior to his April 4, 2016, guilty-plea hearing, A.Z. preserved and reserved[1] the issues that follow for appellate review.

         A.Z. presents on appeal several claims challenging the constitutionality of the "bail-bond-fees" statute set forth in § 12-19-311, Ala. Code 1975.

         An appellate court's "'review of constitutional challenges to legislative enactments is de novo.'" State v. Adams, 91 So.3d 724, 732 (Ala.Crim.App.2010)(quoting Richards v. Izzi, 819 So.2d 25, 29 n.3 (Ala. 2001)).

         I.

         A.Z. contends that the bail-bond fee set forth in § 12-19-311(a)(1)b., Ala. Code 1975, does not apply to youthful-offender adjudications. Paragraphs a and b of § 12-19-311(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975, assess separate costs to obtaining a bail. Paragraph a assesses what the statute terms as a "filing fee" of $35 "on each bond executed." Paragraph b assesses what the statute terms a "bail-bond fee" and is colloquially often called "the back-end fee" because it is "imposed by the court when the defendant appears in court for adjudication or sentencing." § 12-19-311(e)(1), Ala. Code 1975. A.Z. challenges paragraph b, the back-end fee. Specifically, according to A.Z., the "bail-bond-fees" statute explicitly states that the fee in paragraph b applies to misdemeanors and felonies, but the statute does not explicitly state that it applies to youthful offenders.[2]

"(a)(1) In addition to all other charges, costs, taxes, or fees levied by law on bail bonds, additional fees as detailed in ... paragraph b. shall be imposed on every bail bond in all courts of this state.
"... The fees shall be assessed as follows:
"a. ....
"b. For a misdemeanor offense, a bail bond fee in the amount of 3.5 percent of the total face value of the bail bond or one hundred dollars ($100), whichever is greater, but not to exceed four hundred fifty dollars ($450). For a felony offense, a bail bond fee of 3.5 percent of the total face value of the bail bond or one hundred fifty dollars ($150), whichever is greater, but not to exceed seven hundred fifty dollars ($750). Except that if a person is released on a judicial public bail, recognizance, or signature bond, including a bond on electronic traffic and nontraffic citations, the fee shall be affixed at twenty-five dollars ($25). For purposes of this section, face value of bond shall mean the bond amount set by court or other authority at release, not the amount posted at release on bail."

         A.Z. asserts that a youthful-offender adjudication is not a conviction for a crime; thus, according to A.Z., it is not a misdemeanor or a felony. A.Z. argues that, if the legislature had intended the bail-bond fee assessed in paragraph b to apply to youthful offenders, it would have so stated in paragraph b. In response, the State argues on appeal that § 12-19-311(a)(1) clearly states that the fee set forth in paragraph b applies to "every bail bond in all courts of this state, " and, according to the State, this fee is imposed without regard to the offender's age or the degree of culpability assigned to the criminal offense.

         A.Z. cites S.T.E. v. State, 954 So.2d 604 (Ala.Crim.App.2006), as support for the proposition that the bail-bond fee does not apply to youthful offenders. S.T.E. held that

"fees imposed by the Drug Demand Reduction Act (§ 13A-12-281), and fees assessed for the Alabama Forensic Services Trust Fund (§ 36-18-7) were held inapplicable to a youthful-offender adjudication because neither statute explicitly stated that the penalty or fee is to be imposed on youthful offenders or on adjudications under the Youthful Offender Act."

(A.Z.'s brief, p. 10.) A.Z. argues that there is no difference between the bail-bond fee and the Alabama Forensic Services Trust Fund fee and that, thus, this Court should follow S.T.E. and hold that the bail-bond fee does not apply to youthful offenders. The State responds by arguing that A.Z.'s reliance on S.T.E. is misplaced because S.T.E. did not address bail or bonds.

         This Court concludes that the Alabama Forensic Services Trust Fund fee, § 36-18-7, Ala. Code 1975, and the monetary penalty imposed by the Demand Reduction Assessment Act, § 13A- 12-281, Ala. Code 1975, discussed in S.T.E. are distinguishable from the bail-bond fee in paragraph b. Both the Alabama Forensic Services Trust Fund fee and the Demand Reduction Assessment Act monetary penalty are mandatory penalties imposed in addition to other fines and penalties following a conviction for certain drug offenses. See Hall v. State, [Ms. CR-15-0273, July 8, 2016] So. 3d, (Ala. 2016)("[T]he demand-reduction assessment is a 'mandatory' fine that is capable of being waived."); Vann v. State, 880 So.2d 495, 501 (Ala.Crim.App.2003)(noting that the Alabama Forensic Services Trust Fund "mandates that 'there shall be imposed or assessed an additional fee of one hundred dollars" on certain drug offenses.). Thus, S.T.E. discusses both the Alabama Forensic Services Trust Fund fee and the Demand Reduction Assessment Act penalty in terms of the penal nature of those statutes, i.e., the imposition of additional punishment, and then states:

"'"[Penal] statutes are to reach no further in meaning than their words."' Fuller v. State, 257 Ala. 502, 505, 60 So.2d 202, 205 (1952). '"'No person is to be made subject to [penal statutes] by implication, and all doubts concerning their interpretation are to predominate in favor of the accused.'"' Fuller, 257 Ala. at 505, 60 So.2d at 205 (quoting Scott v. State, 152 Ala. 63, 64, 44 So. 544, 545 (1906) (quoting in turn Bishop on Statutory Crimes § 194))."

S.T.E. v. State, 954 So.2d 604, 607-08 (Ala.Crim.App.2006). S.T.E. concludes that, as penal statutes, "[b]ecause § 13A-12-281 and § 36-18-7 do not explicitly apply to youthful offenders, the trial court should not have imposed either penalty on S.T.E." S.T.E., 954 So.2d at 608.

         A.Z.'s reliance on S.T.E. is misplaced because S.T.E. discusses penal statutes, and the nature of the bail-bond fee in paragraph b is not penal. The bail-bond fee is a cost associated with obtaining bail. It is not imposed unless a defendant seeks and obtains bail[3] and the adjudication is something other than not guilty. Thus, unlike S.T.E., A.Z. is not challenging the application of a penal statute; thus, S.T.E. does not control this case.

         Moreover, the Forensic Services Trust Fund Statute states that it imposes "an additional fee of one hundred dollars ($100) on any conviction in any court of the state for drug possession, drug sale, drug trafficking, and drug paraphernalia offense as defined in Sections 13A-12-211 to 13A-12-260, inclusive." § 36-18-7(a), Ala. Code 1975 (emphasis added). The Demand Reduction Assessment Act also imposes an additional penalty for those defendants "convicted of a violation" of certain drug offenses set forth in the Act. See § 13A-12-281(a), Ala. Code 1975 (emphasis added). Because the Demand Reduction Assessment and the Forensic Services Fee specifically state that they apply only to convictions, and A.Z. correctly states that a youthful-offender adjudication is not a conviction, [4] those additional assessments could not apply following a youthful-offender adjudication.

         The bail-bond-fees statute in § 12-19-311(e)(1), Ala. Code 1975, states that the bail-bond fee assessed in paragraph b is assessed when the defendant appears for adjudication:

"The fee imposed on bail bonds under paragraph b. of subdivision (1) of subsection (a) shall be assessed to the defendant and be imposed by the court when the defendant appears in court for adjudication or sentencing.

(Emphasis added.) The disposition following a youthful-offender hearing is an adjudication. The statute does not limit its application to a conviction. It applies equally to an adjudication. An "adjudication" is defined as "the process of judicially deciding a case." Black's Law Dictionary 50 (10th ed. 2014).[5] Thus, by use of the word "adjudication" and not "conviction, " the bail-bond statute was drafted broadly to include youthful offenders.

         Additionally, contrary to A.Z.'s appellate argument that paragraph b states that the bail-bond fee applies following a conviction, paragraph b states that the fee applies to a "misdemeanor offense" and to a "felony offense." An offense is defined as a "violation of the law" and may be a misdemeanor or a felony.[6] A "conviction" is defined as: "finding someone guilty of a crime; the state of having been proved guilty."[7] "An adjudication of youthful offender status is very different from conviction as an adult, because it is not deemed a conviction of crime at all." Gordon v. Nagle, 647 So.2d 91, 95 (Ala. 1994). "'The Youthful Offender Act is intended to extricate persons below twenty-one years of age from the harshness of criminal prosecution and conviction.'" Gordon v. Nagle, 647 So.2d at 95 (quoting Raines v. State, 294 Ala. 360, 363, 317 So.2d 559, 561 (1975)). Use of the word "offense" in the bail-bond-fee statute allows for a broader application than had the statute used the word "conviction." A youth tried as a youthful offender and found to have committed the underlying charged criminal offense has not been convicted of a crime. The youth is adjudicated to be a youthful offender and is punished accordingly. In other words, a youth who is charged with committing a misdemeanor or a felony and who is granted youthful offender status, and is found guilty by a trial court of committing the charged offense is not convicted of a crime, but is adjudicated to be a youthful offender and is punished according to the youthful- offender statute, which has the goal of rehabilitating the youth more than punishing the youth. Therefore, because the bail-bond-fee statute uses the word "offense, " rather than "conviction, " the statute is broader in scope and encompasses youthful-offender adjudications.

         Finally, § 12-19-313 confirms that the bail-bond fee is not limited to "convictions." Section 12-19-313 states that the fee in paragraph b is assessed when ...


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