Mississippi HB 1352: The Criminal Justice Reform Act [Ends driver’s license suspension for unpaid fines and fees, failure to appear]

Mississippi’s Criminal Justice Reform Act ends driver’s license suspension for failure to pay fines and fees, formalizing a January 2017 Mississippi Department of Public Safety discretionary policy change that aimed to end this practice.

The bill provides that when a person fails to pay their fines and fees (whether for traffic, misdemeanor, or felony offenses), a clerk will provide written notice advising that failure to pay within the following 90 days will result in the court pursuing collection of the debt. Before this law was passed, courts suspended driver’s licenses for nonpayment. The bill still allows collections fees, however – according to Mississippi Code Section 21-17-1(6) and Section 19-3-41(2), jurisdictions may engage private collections agencies or private attorneys to collect unpaid fines and fees. If the person who owes fines and fees lives in Mississippi, the collections fee can be as much as 25% of the total debt owed; if the person lives out of state, the collections fee can be as much as 50%. If the jurisdiction (municipality) uses its own employees to collect debt, the same statutory limits on collections fees apply (25% and 50%).

The legislation also provides that people under probation or parole supervision shall not be denied earned-discharge credits (i.e., reductions in term of supervision) because they failed to pay fines or fees, or if a financial hardship waiver was granted.

You can read the full text of the bill here.

Jason White
HB 1352