Lafayette Crime Stoppers won't be able to use money collected from defendants to pay for its annual awards banquet.
An opinion issued by the Attorney General's Office says that money - which is a court cost of $2 per charge added to fines levied in traffic and criminal cases - can be used for most of Crime Stoppers' operations but not for the banquet.
The opinion was issued recently, after a request was sent to the AG by State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux. Crime Stoppers chair Jan Swift tells KATC that the opinion was requested to be sure the group is using funds correctly; she said the money hasn't been used for the banquet for the past several years. Crime Stoppers wanted to be sure that all funds were being spent correctly, because the mission of the agency is too important and one that the board members hold in sacred trust, Swift tells us.
The opinion request asked several questions, which are answered in the opinion:
"Lafayette Crime Stoppers may use funds received pursuant to La. C.Cr.P. art. 895.4(L) for rent of office space, promotional materials, and expenses that directly relate to obtaining information of criminal activity or the operation of a hotline dedicated to receiving such information," the opinion states. "However, using funds for an awards luncheon for law enforcement is a prohibited use of La. C.Cr.P. art. 895.4(L) funds."
That statute lays out how Crime Stoppers organizations receive funding from the courts in their parish:
"When a defendant in a criminal or traffic matter is convicted of any criminal offense or of any traffic offense in any court for which the appropriate certifying officer has certified one or more organizations as certified crime stoppers organizations, the court shall assess an additional cost of court for each offense for which the defendant is convicted. This cost of court shall be in the amount of two dollars and shall be in addition to all other fines, penalties, and costs imposed by the court. The court shall not suspend the payment of this cost of court," the statute reads.
To read the whole statute for yourself, click here.
Here's the full opinion: