It might cost more to have legal papers served by the county Sheriff's Department if the General Assembly approves a proposal by a Harford delegate.
Delegate James M. Harkins, R-35A, said he will introduce legislation in the General Assembly to triple the delivery servicefees -- from $15 to $45 -- charged by all sheriff's departments in Maryland.
Harkins estimates that it costs the county department at least $25 to process and deliver court papers.
"It's not anywhere near breaking even," Harkins said. "We're going into the hole at least $10 a pop, and literally thousands of papers are being served a year."
But, Harkins noted, a delivery usually costs a sheriff's department more than $25 because deputies often have to make repeated visits to a defendant's home to give court papers directly to the defendant.
DeWayne D. Curry, spokesman for the Harford Sheriff's Department, saidthe agency last year served about 39,000 court papers, including warrants and civil documents.
"Of course, the sheriff (Robert E. Comes) is going to support the bill," Curry said.
Harkins said he is planning to file an amendment to a bill sponsored by the Cecil County delegation. The Cecil bill only increases fees for that county's department, while Harkins' amendment would increase the fees statewide.
The amendment will go before the House Judiciary Committee. Harkinssaid the bill and his amendment have support from sheriff's departments in Maryland.
But Delegate Mary Louise Preis, D-34, said opponents of the bill may see the increase in service fees as the first step in increasing other court processing fees in Maryland.
"If thesekinds of fees are allowed around the state, it's a question of wheredoes the bus stop," Preis said.
Harkins said the sheriff's department's delivery service should be paid by people using the court system, not taxpayers.
Another Harkins bill, which would strengthen the state's gun-control law, is making its way through the House. The bill would prohibit anyone convicted of violating laws governing controlled substances from owning, carrying, possessing or transporting firearms.
The bill, which is supported by the National Rifle Association, has been endorsed by the House Judiciary Committee and now goesto the House floor for a vote. The vote on the bill has not been scheduled.