The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Office for Access to Justice issued a formal advisory to recipients of DOJ funds about the enforcement of fines and fees in juvenile courts.
The advisory makes five primary recommendations related to juvenile fines and fees:
- Juvenile justice agencies should presume that young people are unable to pay fines and fees and only impose them after an affirmative showing of ability to pay.
- Before juvenile justice agencies punish youth for failing to pay, they must first determine ability to pay, considering factors particularly applicable to youth.
- Juvenile justice agencies should not condition entry into a diversion program or another alternative to adjudication on the payment of a fee if the youth or the youth’s family is unable to pay the fee.
- Juvenile justice agencies should collect data on race, national origin, sex, and disability to determine whether the imposition of fines and fees has an unlawful disparate impact on juveniles or their families.
- Juvenile justice agencies should consider whether the imposition or enforcement of fines and fees in any particular case comports with the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile justice system.
In December 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Advisory as well as the Dear Colleague letter.