Costs and Fees Charged To Indigent Criminal Defendants in Philadelphia County

  • Of the dockets that were reviewed, the oldest disposition date of a case was August 4, 1981, almost 40 years ago. The client in that case still owes about $40. 

Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) provides free representation to low-income Philadelphians in expungement proceedings. Using data from cases in which PLSE filed expungement petitions in calendar year 2013, this publication seeks to determine the amount of criminal court costs and fees PLSE’s clients owe to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The authors found that payments made toward outstanding balances were typically very small, continued for only a few months, and very few were made at any time after 2017. Comparing the criminal costs and fees to business debt that would be written off as uncollectible, the authors question why these debts remain due.  

You can read the full text of the study here

Key findings

  • The study found that 605 indigent clients owe a total of $1,007,251.27 in costs and fees related to criminal cases, averaging to about $1,664.88 per person. 
  • The typical client owes between $400 and $600. The greatest amount claimed by the Court in a single case is $4,942.50, while the lowest amount owed is $0.20. 


Tarik Kose and Isabella Falzone
Drexel University
Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity