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Funding Through Fees

In addition to imposing fines and penalties on offenders, states have imposed nonoffender-based fees for certain services, which are used to fund crime victim programs. For instance, many states add a surcharge when issuing a marriage license. The money collected is used to fund domestic violence or child abuse programs. Connecticut uses part of the marriage license surcharge to fund rape prevention programs.33 Indiana uses marriage license fees to fund its general victim/witness assistance programs.34 Surcharge amounts range from $3 in Minnesota to $38 in New Hampshire.35

In addition to marriage license fees, many states charge an additional fee for filing for divorce. This amount ranges from $1 in Oregon to $32 in Ohio.36 Utah assesses an additional $2 fee on all civil filings. This money is deposited into the Children's Legal Defense Account for guardian ad litem programs and other programs involving child custody and visitation.37

The amount of money raised through such fees can be significant. Nevada adds a $15 surcharge to its marriage license fee. This money is deposited into an account to aid victims of domestic violence.38 In 1999, this program brought in $2.1 million.39 Ohio's $32 surcharge for filing for divorce and its $17 fee for each marriage license raised $3,203,668 for domestic violence shelters in 1999.40

Similarly, many states have attached fees, ranging from $1 to $10, for issuing birth certificates. The money collected generally goes to the Children's Trust Fund or to fund child abuse and prevention programs.41 A few states add a Children's Trust Fund surcharge when issuing a birth certificate “suitable for display.”42

A few states impose fees on the reinstatement of a driver's license after its suspension or revocation for drunk or drugged driving. Illinois imposes a $60 reinstatement fee on first-time offenders. Thirty dollars of the fee is deposited into the Drunk and Drugged Drivers Prevention Fund. For reinstatement after a second or subsequent suspension or revocation for impaired driving, the fee is $250, and $190 of that is deposited into the fund.43

As illustrated above, when states impose fees on government services that have a logical connection to specific crime victim programs, they have found a source of funding limited only by the creativity of advocates and policymakers.

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State Legislative Approaches to Funding for Victims' Services,
Legal Series Bulletin #9
December 2003
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