Increasing Justice In New York: How New York Could Go From Failing to First in the Nation on the Fines and Fees Justice Index


New York imposes over 30 mandatory fees and mandatory surcharges.

With dozens of fees and fines at every stage of the legal system, New York has created a two-tiered justice system that engulfs low-income people in the criminal legal system. In New York, fines can cost someone up to $100,000, and the penalties for not paying fines include up to a year in jail and driver’s license suspensions. In the December 2022 National Center for Access to Justice’s (NCAJ) Justice Index report, New York scored 42 out of 100.  The Fines and Fees Index gives states a rating from zero to 100 based on how they measure against 17 benchmark policies for fine and fee justice. A state that meets all 17 policy benchmarks would earn a score of 100, whereas a state that meets none would earn a score of zero. If passed, the End Predatory Court Fees Act would make New York number one on the index. 

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The Proposed Law Would:

  • Eliminate probation and parole fees and all court surcharges and fees.
  • Restore a judge’s discretion to waive or reduce fines based on ability to pay.
  • End incarceration for failure to pay fines, fees, surcharges, and assessments. 
  • End the garnishment of commissary for unpaid fines and fees.
  • Require courts to assess a person’s ability to pay before imposing fines.
Lauren Jones
National Center for Access to Justice