National Center for Access to Justice Fines and Fees Index

  • Only one state has abolished all juvenile court fines and fees.
  • No state collects and publishes key data at the state, county, or municipal levels.

In 2016, the National Center for Access to Justice debuted it’s Justice Index and in May 2020, it was updated for the second time. The Fines and Fees Index, an extension of the Justice Index, gives states a rating out of 100 based upon the way they measure against 17 benchmark policies for fine and fee justice. The research found that all states received a failing score, including Washington, which earned the highest score of 54. The authors highlight that at least one state satisfies each of the 17 best policies, so implementation of all of them is possible.

You can find the index here

Key findings

  • Only 12 states require courts to conduct an ability to pay determination when fines and fees are imposed. 
  • Just 11 states have codified substantive standards to guide judges on how to appropriately assess ability to pay. 
  • A mere 4 states mandate that anyone can choose to pay fines and fees on a payment plan, without incurring additional fees or charges. 
  • Just over half of U.S. states, 27 states, have codified a right to counsel in all court proceedings that involve the risk of incarceration. 
  • Only 4 states do not allow for the suspension of driver’s licenses due to unpaid fines and fees nor a failure to appear in court.
National Center for Access to Justice