The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Court Costs

Reference Number: MTAS-317
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: September 24, 2016
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The Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004 provides the authority for municipalities to set court costs. Court costs are to be set by municipal ordinance. T.C.A. § 16-18-304(a). The law does not specify an amount, leaving the amount to the discretion of the city. However, the city should ensure that there is a rational basis for the court cost.

Court costs are designed to offset the cost of maintaining the court. Even when a violator pays before court and does not appear for a court hearing, there still are costs associated with maintaining the court. It is suggested that the city charge uniform court costs for all charges, regardless of whether the defendant appears in court or pays before court. Otherwise, clerks should be prepared to defend any amounts that are greater by proving that the statutory amounts are insufficient to pay for reasonable costs of operation.