The Orange County Board of Supervisors called Tuesday for an audit to determine whether courts are doing enough to collect fines from those convicted of domestic violence.
Those fines help fund domestic violence centers, which provide services for victims and their children, including emergency shelter.
Supervisor Tom Wilson said the courts should provide the county at least $100,000 more per year than they have in the past, based on the number of domestic violence convictions.
Each of the past two years, the Superior Court provided about $100,000 in domestic violence fines to the county, officials said. An aide to Wilson said that if the court collected the full amount from each defendant, an additional $140,000 could have been raised during fiscal 2003.
“I don’t see this thing working the way it should be.... I’m truly at the end of my rope,” Wilson said. “We need that money, and we need it now more than ever.”
Superior Court spokeswoman Carole Levitzky said the court aggressively collects the fines and promptly sends them to the county. She added that the court welcomes the review.
Under state law, the courts collect $400 from those convicted of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence. The courts are supposed to provide two-thirds of that money to the county and one-third to the state.
Wilson said he has been unable to determine whether the courts are imposing the fines and whether they’re doing enough to collect them.
“It’s important that we reconcile the books,” Wilson said.
Vivian Clecak, director of Human Options, an Irvine-based center for domestic violence victims, said funding is a continuing problem.
“The goal of the fine system is to make the person accept consequences for their behavior and support the program that helps the victims,” Clecak said. “I’m so happy they’re doing a study.”
Wilson said he is concerned because even though the fine doubled from $200 to $400 in January, the county has not seen an increase in the amount it receives from the courts.
Levitzky said that the fine increase likely would not have had an immediate impact because it applied only to offenses committed after Dec. 31. Those who committed domestic violence offenses before January still face the $200 fines, she said.