Opinion 89-6

This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

FINES AND PENALTIES -- Distribution of (fines imposed by a court of record)

JUDICIARY LAW, §§791, 796; PENAL LAW, §190.60: A fine imposed following a conviction in Supreme Court, for a violation of section 190.60 of the Penal Law belongs to the locality and not the State.

You ask whether a fine paid into the Supreme Court of a county following a conviction under section 190.60 of the Penal Law for Scheme to Defraud in the Second Degree would properly be deposited into the State's General Fund or remain with the locality. An examination of the relevant statutes, cases and opinions of the Comptroller and the Attorney General reveals that any moneys so collected should remain with the locality.

Article 20 of the Judiciary Law (§§790, et seq.) governs the collection of fines imposed by a court of record, such as the Supreme Court, unless a special provision for the collection of a fine has been "otherwise made by law" (Judiciary Law, §796). Our research has determined that the New York statutes contain no special provision pertaining to the crime of Scheme to Defraud in the Second Degree that would exempt fines levied in connection therewith from the provisions of Article 20.

Under section 791 of the Judiciary Law, "the sheriff of the county" shall collect fines imposed and "pay over the sum collected to the treasurer of the county." However, this statute does not expressly state who is to be the ultimate recipient of those funds. In Goodman v State, 31 NY2d 381, 340 NYS2d 393, the State argued that it, and not the City of New York, should be presumed to be entitled to certain fines collected by the City pursuant to section 791, because the statute contains "not a single word with respect to the title" to such moneys. The Court of Appeals, in response, stated:

Certainly, nothing turns on that. Where statutes provide that fines are payable to a county or city treasurer, they rarely indicate the governmental body that is to receive title to them or for whose benefit they are to be applied. It seems clear that the ultimate recipient is the one to whom payment is to be made. Consequently, we need not in this instance look beyond the county treasurer - in New York City, its finance administrator - to determine who is ultimately to receive the fines here involved. (31 NY2d at 385, 340 NYS2d at 396, footnote omitted)

This conclusion of the Court has been followed by both this Office and the Attorney General, and has not been disturbed by any subsequent State court (see, 1983 Opns St Comp No. 83-181, p 228; 1973 Atty Gen [Inf Opns] p 147; Gregori v Ace 318 Corp., 134 Misc 2d 871, 513 NYS2d 621 [NYCoCiv, 1987]). Therefore, it is our opinion that a fine imposed following a conviction in Supreme Court for a violation of section 190.60 of the Penal Law ultimately belongs to the locality and not to the State.

January 31, 1989
NYS Division of the Budget