Ohio Bench Card: Collection of Court Costs and Fines in Adult Trial Courts

This bench card provides guidance to judges regarding the imposition and collection of court costs and fines. The benchcard provides that a person may be jailed for a willful refusal to pay fines and outlines the steps that must be taken before a court can impose a jail sentence for the nonpayment of court fines. 

You can find a copy of the bench card here


  • Courts and judges should ensure that any fines, costs, and other financial sanctions are reasonable and take into account a defendant’s ability to pay.
  • Ability to pay must be considered when assessing and collecting fines. 
  • When assessing the ability to pay courts may consider: 
    • Income
    • Receipt of needs-based, means tested public assistance
    • Financial resources
    • Place of residence
    • Basic living expenses
    • Efforts to acquire additional resources 
  • Court costs are mandatory, but courts retain the right to waive, suspend or modify the payment of costs. 
  • A court may order the defendant to perform community service in lieu of a fine or if he fails to pay court costs. Each type of offense has a corresponding amount of maximum hours of community service that may be imposed. 
  • Contempt may not be imposed as a method to collect fines and courts costs.