During the National Council of Juvenile Family Court Judges’ (NCJFCJ) 2018 National Conference on Juvenile Justice, the NCJFCJ passed a resolution advocating for the reduction or elimination of fines and fees in juvenile courts. The resolution acknowledges that failure to pay juvenile fines and fees can lead to increased criminal justice involvement, reduced education and employment opportunities, and the entrenchment of poverty, and further recognizes that juvenile courts’ revenue gains from collecting fines and fees are often not much higher than expenditures related to collections. Following these acknowledgments, the resolution makes several specific judicial practice recommendations and statements of support.
The resolution was published alongside a judicial bench card that outlines types of financial obligations that youth and families may encounter in juvenile and family court, details the impacts of those obligations, and explains how judges can address fines and fees in their own courtrooms. The bench card includes several practice recommendations for juvenile and family court judges.
- Indigence determinations should be abolished in youth cases – counsel should be appointed regardless of family income. Accordingly, counsel fees should also be abolished.
- Do not impose probation fees or fees for out of home placement upon youth and families.
- Do not impose fines or fees on youth and families. Presume that youth are unable to pay.
- Do not condition access to a judicial hearing on the prepayment of fees.
- Do not incarcerate or detain people for nonpayment of fines and fees.
- Order community service in lieu of restitution only in ways that promote positive youth development and help youth build skills that will provide for long-term success in the community and workforce. Ensure any community service ordered is limited in duration and does not prevent the youth from engaging in pro-social activities, school, and employment.