Mr. Clark was convicted of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and sentenced to 38 months in prison, and to pay $1846.62, which included a $500 fine – the maximum permitted under Washington law. Mr. Clark appealed asking for a review of the $500 fine.
Washington law distinguishes between fines and costs. The court cannot impose a cost unless the defendant is able or will be able to pay. The fine is not a cost, and the amount is a matter of judicial discretion; the judge was not required to conduct an ability to pay hearing or to limit the fine to an amount a person can afford to pay. However, the court urged trial judges to conduct ability to pay hearings before imposing the fines and to impose fines accordingly.