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Name: People v. Martinez
Case #: G052640
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 09/22/2017

The criminal analysis laboratory fee and drug program fee are not subject to penalty assessments. Martinez was convicted of possessing and transporting a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, §§ 11378, 11379). The trial court granted Martinez probation and ordered him to pay two mandatory fees—a $50 crime-lab fee (Health & Saf. Code, § 11372.5) and a $150 drug program fee (Health & Saf. Code, § 11372.7). The court concluded these “fees” were actually “fines” and thus imposed penalty assessments on them. On appeal, Martinez challenged the penalty assessments. Held: Penalty assessments reversed. There are three categories of monetary charges that may be imposed on a defendant: (1) charges to punish the defendant for the crime (base fines); (2) charges to cover a government program or administrative cost (fees); and (3) penalty assessments, which apply to every “fine, penalty, or forfeiture” imposed. The first paragraph of section 11372.5 refers to the charge as a “criminal laboratory analysis fee.” The second paragraph characterizes the charge as a fine, but this applies only to offenses “for which a fine is not authorized by other provisions of law.” In some cases, the crime-lab fee acts as a fine and is subject to penalty assessments. However, there are presently no offenses that are not subject to a fine, so the “fine” language in the second paragraph of section 11372.5 does not control over the “fee” language in the first paragraph. The purpose for which charges are imposed determines whether they are fines or fees. In People v. Alford (2007) 42 Cal.4th 749, the court held the court security fee (Pen. Code, § 1465.8) is not punitive, in part because it had a rational connection to a non-punitive purpose, and the amount of the fee is not dependent on the seriousness of the offense. The crime-lab and drug program fees also serve an administrative purpose. Neither fee is substantial enough to have a deterrent effect, and both are in fixed amounts, so are not based on the seriousness of a defendant’s conduct. The fees are non-punitive and it was error to impose penalty assessments on them (agreeing with People v. Watts (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 223 and People v. Webb (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 486).

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: