This bench card was created as part of a 2016 settlement agreement in Kennedy v. Biloxi, an ACLU lawsuit against the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, where defendants could avoid incarceration only if they paid their fines and fees immediately, in full, with cash.
The bench card incorporates many of the terms of the settlement and instructs judges on the procedural protections owed to defendants.
You can access the bench card here.
“I’m thrilled about the settlement because it means others won’t have to go through similar experiences in the future. Biloxi is doing the right thing by making these changes.” —Plaintiff Qumotria Kennedy
- No defendant shall be incarcerated solely because they cannot pay fines and fees, or solely because they cannot perform community service.
- When a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, the court must give the defendant an opportunity to complete an affidavit of indigence.
- In cases of nonpayment, a defendant has the right to an ability-to-pay hearing; if the defendant faces possible incarceration, they have the right to a public defender at no cost to the defendant.
- If a defendant is unable to pay mandatory state fees, the bench card advises judges to (1) extend time to pay, (2) impose community service instead, and/or (3) require completion of approved counseling or treatment programs.
- If a defendant is unable to pay discretionary fines, fees, or restitution, the bench card advises judges to (1) reduce or waive fines, fees, or restitution, (2) impose community service instead, (3) extend time to pay, and/or (4) require completion of approved counseling or treatment programs.