Fines and Fees and Jail Time in New York Town and Village Justice Courts: The Unseen Violation of Constitutional and State Law

In this report, the Fund for Modern Courts lays out a comprehensive analysis of fines and fees-related due process violations in New York State town and village justice courts. The report draws upon an analysis of the legal framework for imposing and collecting fines and fees as well as focus groups, interviews, and surveys of criminal justice system stakeholders in New York. The report also makes several recommendations about how fines and fees practices could be improved.

You can read the full text of the report here. Related: The Fines and Fees Justice Center has a New York State campaign to abolish fees and reform the imposition of fines.

Key Findings
  • 63% of New York State public defenders surveyed in the report say courts rarely or never consider ability to pay.
  • Colonie’s town court is “self-funded,” thanks to fines. That court also has an unusually high rate of nonpayment incarceration.
  • More than half of New York’s town and village court judges are not attorneys.
  • One judge sentenced defendants to up to 89 days in jail for failure to pay sums as low as $423. He was admonished, not removed, because he wasn’t a lawyer & wasn’t aware of criminal procedure.
  • New York criminal procedure should be amended to require courts to conduct ability to pay determinations before incarcerating defendants for nonpayment. It should also be amended to require ability to pay determinations at the initial sentencing determination.
  • The state court system should improve systematic data collection.
  • Town and village court judges need more frequent, focused training on fines and fees.
The Fund for Modern Courts