A Texas district attorney may retain the commission his office collects on bond forfeitures, but a commissioners’ court "generally" determines how the commission may be used, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott found in an April 3 opinion.
Abbott issued Opinion No. GA-0997 at the request of Fannin County Criminal District Attorney Richard Glaser, who says he wants "recognition" from the Fannin County commissioners’ court for his office’s efforts to collect bond forfeitures.
Glaser says he would like to use some of the bond forfeiture money to supplement salaries paid to the four lawyers in his office, for security and for other law enforcement needs.
"I would like to have it dedicated to my office use," Glaser says.
Fannin County Judge Creta Carter II did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
Glaser, who is in his third term as criminal DA, says his office collected about $4,000 in commissions on bond forfeitures in 2012, but the money was paid into the county’s general fund. Glaser says the commission is 10 percent of bonds forfeited when a criminal defendant fails to show up.
In his opinion, Abbott found that Texas Government Code §41.005 creates discretionary authority for the DA to retain a commission from the bond forfeitures.
Abbott found that Texas Constitution Article XVI, §61 directs that all fees earned by a county official should be paid into the county treasury, but Local Government Code Subchapter B, Chapter 113 directs the officer to deposit money with the county treasurer, who "shall" deposit the money in a fund to the credit of the official collecting the money.
"Thus, the Local Government Code requires the commission to be deposited with the county treasurer, who is required to place the commissions in a fund to the credit of the district attorney’s office, which is the department responsible for the collecting the money," Abbott wrote.
However, because the Texas Legislature has not provided that the DA is authorized to administer the forfeiture commission fund, the commissioners’ court "generally determines how bond forfeiture commissions may be used."
Glaser says he feel "vindicated" with Abbott’s decision, and intends to ask for the forfeiture proceeds to be included in his office’s budget next year.
"We just want a little recognition from the commissioner’s court that we do help pay our way," Glaser says.