By Bob Weaver

West Virginian's had better be braced to pay higher court costs if they're issued a citation with two charges.

The Herald reported the change a few weeks ago, and now the state's media has picked-up reporting about a Supreme Court edict telling the state's magistrates they must issue $161.50 court costs on each violation.

The change could bring millions of extra dollars to the cash-starved regional jail system.

Magistrates have long followed a practice of one court cost on the same ticket, but state officials are now claiming it is illegal.

The single court cost per ticket likely goes back to the 1970s.

Many of the magistrates have reacted to the change with borderline defiance.

Calhoun magistrate Rick Postalwait said "I'm not at all pleased. The law has not changed, the interpretation has."

"We seem to have little choice in the matter, the court has threatened to take action against us if we don't comply," Postalwait said.

Magistrate Teresa Robinson said "Most magistrates disagree with the policy," indicating she believes it is unfair to the public.

Roane County magistrate Denver Gandee said "The way our court costs are spiraling upward, if an individual has two citations on a ticket, the court costs will be $321 before any fines have been imposed...It does make it rough."

Gandee expressed concern that many people in poor rural counties who get cited will be faced with paying fines or putting food on the table.

Chief Kanawha County magistrate Joe Shelton said if he can't get around charging multiple court costs, he will exercise judicial discretion by possibly dismissing lesser offenses.

Poncho Morris of the Supreme Court's magistrate division said "It seems like the vast majority (magistrates) are not adhering to the rule."

"To do otherwise is unlawful," Morris said.

Most of the court costs go to pay for the high cost of WV's regional jails.

Court costs have tripled in the past ten years, mostly to support the burgeoning jail system.

Steve Canterbury, who was the former executive director of the Regional Jail and Correctional Authority, and is now the Supreme Court's administrative director, says such charges are law, and it is up to the legislature to make any changes.

"The Court is not in the business of legislating. We do what the legislature demands," Canterbury said.

Others say the issue is open to interpretation, and is only policy.