In 2018 alone, Florida courts assessed about $1.1 billion in fines and fees.
Each year, the Florida Clerks & Comptrollers release a consolidated summary of the fines and fees that were assessed and collected statewide. Each yearly report details the total amount of fines and fees assessed, the total amount collected, the collections rate, the amount of fines and fees converted into community service hours or time served, and the amount reduced or waived. In addition to a statewide total, these data points are also broken out by Circuit and by type of court—there are separate sections for Circuit and County criminal courts (dealing primarily with felonies and misdemeanors, respectively), juvenile courts, civil traffic courts, and more. Within each of those sections, it’s possible to find data about each Florida Circuit; for example, Circuit 15’s juvenile court had a collections rate of 7.3% in 2018.
A Note of Caution
This data comes directly from Florida’s elected County Clerks, who depend on fines and fees to fund their courts. We do not know whether any of the judges who imposed fines and fees asked about or in any way assessed a person’s ability to pay; we do not know how many of the people from whom fines and fees were collected were indigent; we do not know if any of the people from whom fines and fees were collected were offered a payment plan (or if that payment plan was reasonable); we do not know how many people were offered an alternative to payment, such as community service; we do not know whether the fines and fees were collected by the Clerks themselves or from private collection agencies (which, by law in Florida, are able to charge up to an additional 40% of the amount owed). Most importantly, we do not know the hardships endured by people who were forced to pay these fines and fees.
Below, you can find a selection of particularly revealing data points from the 2018 report. Additionally, you can find links to the full text of each report since 2013 here:
Key Data Points, 2018
- Across all types of courts and jurisdictions in 2018, $688 million in fines and $474 million in fees were assessed. Of that sum, $863 million total fines and fees were collected, leaving a remainder of $217 million unpaid fines and fees just from 2018. The overall collections rate was 74.25%.
- Across all of Florida’s Circuit Criminal courts, which primarily deal with felonies, the collections rate for fines and fees was just 20.55%. Among those courts, some have drastically low collections rates: Circuit 8 has a collections rate of 10.07%, and Circuit 13 has a rate of 8.05%. There are also outliers on the other end of the spectrum: Circuit 2 had a collections rate of 60.7%.
- In County Criminal courts, which deal with misdemeanors, criminal traffic offenses, and non-criminal infractions and ordinance violations, the collections rate was 69.3%. Compared to Circuit Criminal courts, there is much less variation—all individual counties had collections rates above 50%.
- In 2018, Florida’s juvenile courts assessed a total of $7.5 million in fines and fees, but collected just $2 million at a rate of 26.6%. Some individual courts had particularly low collections rates: Circuit 6 collected 13.81%; Circuit 7, 15.6%; Circuit 15, 7.32%.
- By contrast, civil traffic courts seem to collect a much larger percentage of what they assess. In 2018, civil traffic courts assessed $388 million and collected 91.39% of that sum ($355 million).
- “The Total Amount [of fines and fees assessed] for Drug Trafficking is presumed an uncollectible amount… [because] the defendants were most likely incarcerated [and therefore unable to pay].”