Unofficial Opinion 97-28
Municipal Court of Griffin
The provisions of O.C.G.A. § 15-21-131 which impose an additional penalty of five percent for criminal offenses includes traffic offenses.
This is in response to your request for an opinion regarding the applicability of O.C.G.A. † 15-21-131, which imposes a five percent penalty for any criminal offense, to traffic offenses. For the reasons outlined below, the five percent penalty is appropriately assessed in traffic offense cases.
House Bill 324 enacted by the General Assembly in 1997, amended O.C.G.A. † 15-21-131 to provide:
In every case in which any court of this state or any municipality or political subdivision of this state shall impose a fine, which shall be construed to include costs, for any criminal offense or any criminal ordinance violation, there shall be imposed as an additional penalty a sum equal to 5 percent of the original fine.
The former O.C.G.A. † 15-21-131 provided:
In every case in which any state court, superior court, or any municipal court of any unified or consolidated government in this state shall impose a fine, which shall be construed to include costs, for any criminal offense, there shall be imposed as an additional penalty a sum equal to 5 percent of the original fine.
For purposes of your inquiry, the 1997 amendment does broaden the assessment to include "criminal ordinance violations," but does not alter the ultimate answer to your specific question.
Under what is known as the "Uniform Rules of the Road," O.C.G.A. † 40-6-1 provides:
It is unlawful and, unless otherwise declared in this chapter with respect to particular offenses, it is a misdemeanor for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required in this chapter.
Therefore, any offense which is chargeable under these Uniform Rules of the Road is a misdemeanor which is prosecuted as a violation of a state statute or local ordinance, Diamond v. State, 151 Ga. App. 690 (1979), even though an indictment or accusation is not required. O.C.G.A. † 40-13-24. Of course, any traffic offense to be chargeable would have to meet the provisions as outlined in State v. Nix, 220 Ga. App. 651 (1996).
In summary, the imposition of a five percent additional penalty "for any criminal offense" under O.C.G.A. † 15-21-131 includes the assessment of this penalty for chargeable traffic offenses.
CAROL A. CALLAWAY
Senior Assistant Attorney General