Monetary Sanctions in the Criminal Justice System

This review of law and policy is the first-year report of a five-year study comprising quantitative and qualitative research that provides a detailed understanding of how fines and fees are imposed and enforced across the United States. Researchers from nine universities explored the legal structure of monetary sanctions in California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington, as well as within counties and cities in each state. The researchers also issued recommendations for promising areas of research.

You can read the full study here.

Key findings
  • The United States lacks a single coherent set of laws, policies, or principles governing the imposition and enforcement of fines and fees. As a result, each state and even cities and counties within a state has different laws and policies for imposing and collecting fines and fees.
  • Fines and fees are routinely imposed for misdemeanor and felony criminal justice involvement, and for minor code violations and traffic infractions.
  • If fines and fees are not paid immediately, they can trigger additional sanctions of varying scope and severity, including additional fines and fees, interest, suspension of driver’s license, extension of supervision, and incarceration.
Alexes Harris, Beth Huebner, Karin Martin, Mary Pattillo, Becky Pettit, Sarah Shannon, Bryan Sykes, Chris Uggen, April Fernandes