Skip to Main Content
Blogs | March 4, 2015
4 minute read

COA upholds constitutionality of MCL 769.1k. Trial courts may impose any reasonably related court costs on criminal defendants

In People v. Konopka, the Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court could impose court costs on defendant in light of the Legislature’s post-Cunningham amendment to MCL 769.1k. The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that MCL 769.1k, as amended, is unconstitutional.  However, the Court remanded the case back to the trial court to establish whether the $500 court costs imposed were “reasonably related to the actual costs incurred by the trial court without separately calculating those costs involved in the particular case” as required under MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii).

Defendant pleaded guilty to counts of retail fraud and conspiracy, and was sentenced for both convictions. Additionally, the trial court ordered defendant to pay $500 in court costs. Defendant’s leave for appeal regarding validity of his sentence was denied. However, the Court grants the defendant’s leave to appeal the concerning the trial court’s imposition of court costs was granted.

MCL 769.1k at the time of defendant’s sentencing read that at sentencing a court may impose any cost in addition to the minimum state cost set forth in the rest of the statute. In People v. Cunningham, 496 Mich 145 (2014), the Michigan Supreme Court limited the statute, holding that MCL 769.1k only provides courts the authority to impose those costs that the Legislature has separately authorized by statute. After Cunningham, the Legislature amended MCL 769.1k to clarify the courts authority to impose any court costs on defendants. This case was still on appeal when the amended version of MCL 769.1k was adopted so the Court held that the amended version applies to the case. Defendant was convicted of retail fraud and conspiracy; Michigan statutes for those offenses do not separately authorize the imposition of court costs, as required by Cunningham. But the since the Court applied the amended version of 769.1k, the Court concluded that the court could impose certain costs not independently authorized by the statute for the offenses. However, while the Court held that the trial court was able to impose the costs, it also held that the trial court did not establish a factual basis for the $500 costs imposed. The Court remands to the trial court to establish a factual basis for the $500 imposed as required under the amended MCL 769.1k.

Defendant also raises three possible constitutional issues regarding the application of the amended statute including the following: 1) separation of powers; 2) equal protection; 3) and ex post facto violations. The Court extensively reviewed each issue and ultimately rejected defendant’s constitutional challenges to the amended version of MCL 769.1k.

First, the Court concluded that the Legislature’s enactment of the amendment to MCL 761k did not violate the separation of powers doctrine. The Court heavily relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Romein v Gen Motors Corp, 436 Mich 515, 536-539; 462 NW2d 555 (1990)in holding that the Legislature was permitted to retroactively amend a statutes that it perceived to have been misconstrued by the judiciary, as long as it was otherwise constitutional. Second, the defendant argued that the amended MCL 769.1k creates different class of citizens, in that costs can imposed on some defendants but not others depending on date of sentencing. Also, defendant argues that the civil litigants are not required to pay the costs that criminal litigants are required to pay. The Court applied the rational basis test and concluded that the defendant failed to establish that the classifications were arbitrary and that the statute is rationally related to a legitimate purpose of collecting costs from criminal defendants. The Court affirmed that the Legislature can rationally enact laws treating civil defendants differently than criminal defendants. Third, defendant claims that the application of the amended statute violates the prohibition on ex post facto punishments by increasing the punishment for his crime. The Court disagreed finding that the Legislature intended the costs provision of the amended statue to be civil in nature and not so punitive to negate the civil intent.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s authority to impose the court costs but remanded to the trial court to establish a factual basis for the $500 amount imposed on defendant.