This bill was proposed to enshrine Rule 26.6(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure in state law. Its provisions are nearly identical: it mandates a determination of willfulness before a court may sanction a defendant for nonpayment of fines and fees, and provides alternatives for courts when failure to pay was not willful.
- When a defendant fails to pay, the court must serve the defendant with an order to show cause (for why they should not be held in contempt of court).
- During ability to pay hearings, the court must determine whether failure to pay was willful. If the defendant’s income is at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, they are deemed indigent. If their income is above 125% of FPL, the judge will assess ability to pay based on other factors, including but not limited to their disposable income, financial obligations, and liquid assets.
- If failure to pay was not willful, the court must either allow extra time to pay, reduce the amount of each payment owed on the payment plan, allow the defendant to perform community service (receiving hourly credits against fines and fees at minimum wage), or waive the fines and fees altogether.
- “Incarceration shall not automatically follow the nonpayment of [fines and fees]. Incarceration may be employed only after the court has [determined that failure to pay was willful].”
- When a defendant is sentenced to pay fines, fees, or restitution, courts may establish payment plans in accordance with the defendant’s ability to pay.
- When a defendant fails to pay, the court must serve the defendant with notice of a hearing to determine whether the failure to pay was willful.