COA partially reverses for defendant in fees and costs dispute

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A Bloomfield woman has secured a partial reversal from the Court of Appeals of Indiana on the assessment of her fees and costs for her crime of failing to comply with compulsory school attendance law.

Before Diana Neely entered a guilty plea for Class B misdemeanor failure to comply with compulsory school attendance law, she had been previously charged with Level 6 felony neglect of a dependent.

The Greene Superior Court set a bond of $4,000 for the Level 6 felony charge, and Neeley posted a 10% cash deposit of $400. Neeley signed a bond agreement form in which she agreed that she would receive back from the court clerk only that portion of her deposit that remained after the payment of authorized fines, costs and fees.

After she failed to appear at a March 2021 hearing, a warrant was issued for Neely’s arrest and a $5,000 bond was set. Neeley posted a $500 cash bond in April 2021 and signed a second similar bond agreement form.

Then on her Class B misdemeanor, the trial court sentenced Neeley to serve 60 days in jail and pay a $35 fine plus court costs. The court ordered that the two bond deposits Neeley had posted would be “released to pay all [her] fines, fees[,] and costs related to” the case and also ordered Neeley to pay a $100 “child abuse prevention fee.”

A second order stated that Neeley’s “bond be released after the deduction of the bond administration fee and the special death benefit fee, and upon payment of the following, in the order and priority designated.”

The order then listed as first priority the payment of $240 for the costs of representation incurred by the county in paying the court-appointed lawyer; second priority as “costs;” third priority as “fine;” and fourth priority as “[a]ny outstanding criminal fees in Greene County

The chronological case summary in Neeley’s case stated that her total charges were $660 and her balance due as of June 30, 2021 was zero dollars. It also showed her cash bond balance as of that date was zero.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that Neeley deposited $900, which was 10% of her two bail bonds, and she agreed to pay authorized court costs, fines, and fees with that 10% deposit.

“As part of its sentence, the trial court ordered Neeley to pay court fees and costs totaling $660, as stated in the CCS. The parties agree that $100 of that total was a charge for a child abuse prevention fee, and that charge was not authorized by statute,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “Since the charge against Neeley for neglect of a dependent was dismissed, the court abused its discretion when it imposed upon Neeley the $100 child abuse prevention fee.”

Although the remaining $560 was authorized by statute, the COA noted a $340 discrepancy between Neeley’s total bond and the charges the court was authorized to impose.

“Neeley is clearly entitled to the remaining $340 of her bond deposit, pursuant to Indiana Code Section 35-33-8-3.2(b),” Bailey wrote, remanding the matter with instructions for the Greene Superior Court to remit to her that amount.

The case is Diana Neeley v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1327.

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