Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division

December 3, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
GARY L. THOMAS, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Scotland County Cause No. 14SY-CR00133-02 Honorable Thomas P. Redington

          OPINION

          Colleen Dolan, Chief Judge.

         Gary L. Thomas ("Thomas") appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of Scotland County (the "trial court") denying his motion to retax costs associated with Thomas's criminal case (in which Thomas pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor) that was concluded in Scotland County after it was transferred via a change of venue from Schuyler County. Thomas raises three points on appeal. In his first point, Thomas argues that the trial court erred in ordering that he owes a balance of $774.19 "because Schuyler County is responsible for the costs taxed in this case, in that the costs incurred on a change of venue are payable by the county in which the proceedings originated." In his second point, Thomas asserts that the trial court erred in declining to order that Scotland County issue a refund to him for the amount he paid ($372.00) towards assessed court costs because Scotland County lacked statutory authority to recover costs from Thomas and must therefore refund any costs recovered, pursuant to § 514.270.[1] And in his third point, Thomas contends that the trial court erred in ordering that he owes a balance of $774.19 because "the trial court may not assess costs against indigent persons represented by a legal aid society or legal services organization." Thomas also filed a "motion for civil judgment" with our Court requesting that we schedule a hearing on the motion or enter judgment against the circuit clerk of Scotland County because the circuit clerk failed to prepare a proper fee bill. Thomas argues in his motion that he is entitled to treble the amount that he paid to Scotland County, pursuant to § 550.180. That motion was taken with the case.

         Finding that Scotland County lacked statutory authority to seek or recover costs directly from Thomas, we reverse the trial court's judgment denying Thomas's motion to retax costs, and remand with instructions consistent with this opinion.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 17, 2014, information was filed in the Circuit Court of Schuyler County charging Thomas with one count of felony stealing. On June 24, 2015, Thomas filed an application for change of venue, and the case was transferred from the Circuit Court of Schuyler County to the Circuit Court of Scotland County on June 29, 2015. On May 24, 2016, Thomas pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor stealing and was sentenced to 119 days in the county jail, with credit for time already served. In its judgment, the trial court ordered Thomas to pay the court costs and costs of incarceration incurred in his criminal case, and the circuit clerk of Scotland County thereafter issued the final fee bill for the case, taxing a total of $5, 391.19 against Thomas ($4, 245.00 for costs of incarceration and $1, 146.19 for court costs). On July 21, 2016, the trial court issued a show cause order to Thomas that directed him to show cause for his failure to pay the assessed costs, and on August 16, 2016, the court issued a warrant for Thomas's arrest for failure to appear upon the show cause order. The warrant was served on March 2, 2018, and following a hearing on March 5, 2018, the trial court ordered that Thomas pay $100.00 per month towards the assessed court costs.

         On April 29, 2019, Thomas filed his motion to retax costs, arguing that Scotland County had no authority to tax costs against him because a change of venue had occurred, and that Scotland County could only recover its costs from Schuyler County.[2] Thomas requested that the court vacate all court-cost tax bills that Scotland County had issued against him and that the court order Scotland County to refund the amounts Thomas had already paid towards those assessed costs. On June 7, 2019, the trial court held a hearing on the motion at which the circuit clerk of Scotland County and the Schuyler County presiding commissioner testified. Additionally, several exhibits detailing the assessed court costs and amounts Thomas had paid to Scotland County (equaling $372.00) were also admitted into evidence.

         On June 11, 2019, the trial court entered its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and judgment denying Thomas's motion to retax costs, and determining that Thomas was not entitled to a refund of the $372.00 that he paid to Scotland County and still owed a balance of $774.19 for the assessed courts costs.[3] Acknowledging the recent holding from our Court in State v. Boston, 572 S.W.3d 160 (Mo. App. E.D. 2019), in which we held that a county to which a criminal case was transferred via a change of venue could not recover costs directly from the criminal defendant, the trial court reasoned that "[t]he final paragraph of that opinion specifically declines to excuse the defendant from all costs liability" and that Boston "does not prohibit this Court from enforcing the Judgment against the defendant for those costs," pursuant to §§ 550.010, 550.030, and 550.120. Additionally, the court also recognized that Thomas had previously informed the court that he was able to pay the assessed costs.

         This appeal follows.

         II. Discussion

         In this case, Thomas argues in his points on appeal that: (1) Scotland County cannot seek or recover costs from Thomas because Schuyler County is responsible for the costs of his criminal case, as the case originated in Schuyler County before the change of venue (pursuant to § 550.120.1); (2) Scotland County must issue a refund to Thomas for the $372.00 that he paid towards the court costs assessed by Scotland County because Scotland County was without statutory authority to recover costs from Thomas; and (3) costs cannot be assessed against Thomas because he is an indigent person represented by a legal aid society or legal services organization. Because Thomas's first and second points on appeal raise issues that are related, we address those two points together and thereafter address his third point separately.

         Points I and II: Recovery of Costs in Criminal Cases with a Change of Venue

         a. Standard of Review

         Because whether a county has authority to seek or recover costs from a criminal defendant is a question of statutory construction and, therefore, an issue of law, our review is de novo. Boston, 572 S.W.3d at ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.