Current law establishes procedures for when a sentence includes the payment of a monetary amount. This bill clarifies that the procedures also apply whenever a court enters a judgment or issues an order obligating a defendant to pay an amount to the court.
- If a defendant is unable to pay, the court must notify the defendant that: (1) the defendant may appear in court and request a reduction in the amount or an alternative sentence that does not involve incarceration; and (2) the court will not jail or otherwise punish the defendant for his or her inability to pay.
- Courts are prohibited from (1) accepting a guilty plea for contempt of court for failure to pay unless the court finds that the defendant has the ability to pay and the payment will not be an undue hardship on the defendant or the defendant’s dependents; or (2) issuing a warrant for failure to pay money or to appear when ordered to pay money unless the existing procedural provisions are followed.
- Undue hardship is defined as depriving the defendant of food, shelter, clothing, basic medical expenses.
- In determining undue hardship, courts must consider: whether the defendant is experiencing homelessness; the defendant’s employment, income, and expenses; the defendant’s outstanding debts; whether the defendant is receiving public assistance; whether the defendant owns property; and whether the defendant lives in public housing.