The Role of Fines and Fees on Probation Outcomes


The total amount of fees assessed was a significant predictor of revocation for the commission of both a new criminal offense and technical violation.

Although fines and fees can leave individuals with high amounts of debt, few court systems use standardized measures to determine an individual’s ability to pay. The amount of fees and fines individuals on probation are ordered to pay within the same jurisdiction can vary widely and nonpayment can result in probation violations and revocations. This study reviews the administrative records of 1,660 individuals on probation supervision in one Texas jurisdiction, whose cases closed between 2015 and 2016. The authors explore the legal and extralegal factors that influence the amount of fines and fees assessed in individual cases and the influence of fines and fees on probation revocations. The authors also present policy and practice solutions to improve probation success.


  • Males on community supervision were assessed 28% more total fines compared to females, while there was no significant difference in the amount of fees assed between males and females.
  • On average, unemployed people were assessed fees 9% higher than those assessed on people with full time employment. 
  • Race and ethnicity were not found to be significant predictors of total parole and probation fees or fines assessed.
  • Individuals with a felony offense received total fees that were 73% higher compared to those with a misdemeanor offense; level of offense was not a significant predictor of total fines assessed.
  • Individuals sentenced to longer periods of supervision were assessed more average fees  (42%) but not average fines.
  • The more total fines assessed, the larger the amount of total fees assessed and vice versa.
  • Increased restitution was associated with an increase in the amount of fees assessed (3%) and a decrease in the amount of fines assessed (-42%).
  • The amount of fines and restitution assessed were not significantly associated with time to technical violation revocation.


  • Where there are multiple technical violations before an individual’s probation is revoked, probation officers should identify the primary reason for the revocation. 
  • Courts and probation departments should develop policies and tools to determine amounts that are fair and aligned with what an individual is able to pay.
  • Probation conditions should align with an individual’s risk and needs.

You can access the full article here.

Ebony Ruhland, Bryan Holmes, Amber Petkus
University of Cincinnati