First-Of-Its-Kind National Poll Reveals Broad Consensus for Fines and Fees Reform
4 Of 5 U.S. Voters Support Halting Collections During Economic Crisis and Permanently Reducing or Replacing Fines
The first-ever nationwide poll of U.S. voters on fines and fees policies revealed broad support for a wide range of reforms.
“These results show that fines and fees reform isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also the politically smart thing to do,” said Lisa Foster, Co-Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “Voters want action — and elected officials would be wise to pay attention.”
- 82% of U.S. voters support stopping the collection of fines and fees during the Covid-19 economic downturn.
- 80% of U.S. voters support reducing or replacing fines for minor violations of the law.
- 74% of U.S. voters believe everyone should pay for the justice system, not just those charged with a crime.
- 79% of voters believe that government revenue should not depend on making people pay more through fines, fees, and tickets.
- A majority of voters oppose debt-based driver’s license suspensions (51%-45%), with the margin expanding significantly after hearing pro and con messages (57%-41%).
“These reforms represent significant steps to reduce economic and racial inequality throughout the U.S.,” said Joanna Weiss, co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. “When jurisdictions rely on police and judges to generate revenue through fines and fees, it’s a lose-lose situation for both residents and their government.”
Following the 2008 Recession, state and local governments dramatically increased the number and amount of fines and fees imposed on people for everything from minor traffic and municipal code violations, to misdemeanors and felonies — and used draconian tactics to collect them. This regressive system of taxation is now entrenched in virtually every state, and in municipalities large and small across the country, extracting billions of dollars from our most vulnerable communities.
But over the past few years, dozens of U.S. states and localities have enacted a wide range of fines and fees reforms. Twelve U.S. states from across the political spectrum — including seven states in 2020 alone — have recently passed reforms to end debt-based driver’s license suspensions. Hundreds of jurisdictions have also enacted emergency measures to alleviate the harms of fines and fees in response to the Covid-19 economic crisis.
President-Elect Joe Biden’s platform includes fines and fees reform, while Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris co-sponsored the federal Driving for Opportunity Act, which would incentivize states to end debt-based driver’s license suspensions.
The public opinion survey was conducted from Sept. 26 to Oct. 12 by the bipartisan research team of FM3 Research and American Viewpoint.