Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CLAY COUNTY The Honorable Janet L.
Before: Karen King Mitchell, Chief Judge, Presiding, Lisa
White Hardwick and Thomas N. Chapman, Judges
White Hardwick, Judge
Savage appeals from the circuit court's denial of his
motion to retax costs to the State. Savage contends the court
erroneously denied his motion because: (1) after originally
ordering him to pay costs, the court made a subsequent
finding that he was insolvent; and (2) he should not have
been taxed any costs as an indigent person represented by the
Public Defender's Office. For reasons explained herein,
we find no error and affirm the judgment denying the motion
to retax costs.
and Procedural History
jury trial, Savage was convicted and sentenced to six years
imprisonment for second-degree burglary and 180-days for
misdemeanor stealing. At the sentencing hearing on November
30, 2018, Savage argued that costs should not be taxed
against him as a "clearly indigent" person who was
represented by the Public Defender's Office and lacked a
high school diploma or current employment. The court stated
the objection was "duly noted" before taxing costs
against Savage in the amount of $371.50 ("original
costs"). The court, however, granted Savage's
motion to appeal in forma pauperis.
three months later, on February 20, 2019, the circuit court
certified a bill of costs to the Department of Corrections
("DOC"), which included a $6.00 "Felony Clerk
Fee," a $75.00 "Sheriff's Fee," and a $6,
629.68 board bill for the period of time Savage was detained
in the Clay County Jail. Savage thereupon filed a motion to
retax the original costs to the State, alleging that the
circuit court, in certifying the bill of costs to the DOC,
necessarily determined that he was insolvent and unable to
pay court costs. Savage argued that the court was required to
correct its previous judgment assessing costs against him.
circuit court denied Savage's motion to retax costs and
stated during the hearing on the motion that it was doing so
because "finding [Savage] insolvent for paying $6, 000
in a board bill is entirely different than [the court]
find[ing] him indigent for purposes of assessing $300 in
court costs. . . . There's a huge distinction in finding
somebody indigent based on the difference in what [the court
is] assessing against him." Savage appeals the denial of
his motion to retax costs.
interpretation is an issue of law that [appellate courts]
review de novo." State v. Richey,
569 S.W.3d 420, 423 (Mo. banc 2019). "When interpreting
a statute, the primary goal is to give effect to legislative
intent as reflected in the plain language of the
statute." State v. Moore, 303 S.W.3d 515, 520
(Mo. banc 2010).
points on appeal assert that the circuit court erred in
denying his motion to retax costs to the State. In Point I,
Savage contends the court should have reassessed the original
costs against the State in light of its later determination
that Savage was insolvent for purposes of the board bill and
other costs. In Point II, Savage argues that he should not
have been taxed any costs as an indigent person represented
by a legal aid society or legal services organization. As
both of Savage's points fail for the same reason, we will
address them together.
have no inherent power to award costs," as they are
creatures of statute, "which can only be granted by
virtue of express statutory authority." State ex
rel. Merrell v. Carter, 518 S.W.3d 798, 800 (Mo. banc
2017) (citation and quotations omitted). "Express
statutory authority must be clear, definite, and
unambiguous." Richey, 569 S.W.3d at 423
(footnote omitted). Indeed, "[t]here is no power to tax
costs 'unless a finger can be put upon a statute
permitting it.'" Id. (quoting Jacoby v.
Mo. Valley Drainage Dist., 163 S.W.2d 930, 931 (Mo. banc
1942)). We, therefore, strictly construe the statutes
authorizing the taxation of costs. Gene Kauffman
Scholarship Found., Inc. v. Payne, 183 S.W.3d 620, 627
(Mo. App. 2006).
normal course, a defendant "convicted of any crime or
misdemeanor [ ] shall be adjudged to pay the costs, and no
costs incurred on his part, except fees for the cost of
incarceration, including a reasonable sum to cover occupancy
costs, shall be paid by the state or county." §
550.010, RSMo 2016. The General Assembly, however, codified an
exception to this rule in Section 550.020, which states, in
pertinent part, "in all cases in which the defendant
shall be sentenced to imprisonment in the penitentiary . . .
the state shall pay the costs, if the defendant shall be
unable to pay them, except costs ...