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Name: People v. Watts
Case #: A145322
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/08/2016
Summary

The criminal laboratory analysis fee (Health & Saf. Code, § 11372.5) is not subject to penalty assessments. Watts pleaded no contest to possession of methamphetamine for sale and received probation. The trial court imposed a $190 crime-lab fee (Health & Saf. Code, § 11372.5), which included penalty assessments. Watts argued that the $50 crime-lab fee is not subject to penalty assessments. Held: 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, i.e., base fines; (2) charges to cover a particular government program or administrative cost (usually referred to as fees); and (3) penalty assessments, which apply to “every fine, penalty, or forfeiture imposed.” The first paragraph of section 11372.5 refers to the fee as a “criminal laboratory analysis fee.” The second paragraph does characterize the charge as a fine. However, the statute’s references to the word “fine” and the phrase “any other penalty,” in the second paragraph applies only to offenses “for which a fine is not authorized by other provisions of law.” In such a case, the crime-lab fee acts as a fine and is subject to penalty assessments. However, there are currently no such offenses covered by section 11372.5, so the language in the second paragraph does not control over the language in the first paragraph. Watts was convicted under Health and Safety Code section 11378, which does not provide for a base fine. But the offense is punishable by imprisonment in county jail and is subject to a fine under Penal Code section 672. Thus, the second paragraph of section 11372.5 does not apply and no assessments may be applied to the crime-lab fee.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A145322.PDF