Penalizing the Poor: An Assessment of the Administration of Fines and Fees in Florida Misdemeanor Courts


Florida law imposes $283 in fees for individuals who plead no contendere or guilty to a misdemeanor offense; counties can add $70 in additional fees.

 Florida courts’ fine and fee procedures punish people for being poor. In 2018, the American Bar Association (ABA) developed guidance on fairly administering court fines and fees to ensure people are not penalized for being poor. In addition, from 2018 to 2023, the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense (ABA SCLAID) conducted court observations and interviews of justice system officials in Florida’s misdemeanor courts to assess whether their practices align with ABA policy and identify areas for improvement. This report details the many fees imposed during the pretrial period and upon conviction. When individuals require a payment plan, courts add additional fees and suspend drivers’ licenses for failure to pay, creating further financial and legal hardships. The report also provides recommendations on how Florida misdemeanor courts can bring their practices into compliance with ABA policy.

You can read the full text here

Key Findings:

  • Defendants on a payment plan are charged additional fees, including an administrative fee of up to $25 to establish the plan and transaction fees for each payment made.
  • Florida statute does not grant judges the power to waive or reduce most fees.
  • People unable to pay fines are sanctioned with driver’s license suspension and the issuance of bench warrants.


  • Eliminate or reduce court-imposed fees.
  • Give judges the discretion to waive or reduce fines and fees.
  • End the suspension of driver’s licenses as a punishment. 
  • Conduct an ability-to-pay assessment before imposing fines and fees.
The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense and Arnold Ventures