People who satisfy their LFOs, typically pay immediately; 23 percent of individuals with private attorneys and 18 percent of individuals with a public defender pay their LFOs on the day of assessment.
Low-income defendants are burdened with fine and fee assessments that they cannot afford to pay. This paper examines administrative court data for criminal cases in limited jurisdiction courts in Washington, between 2015 and 2020, where a legal financial obligation (LFO) was imposed. It also includes a detailed analysis of defendants with a private attorney versus a public defender to examine whether the type of legal representation has an effect on the amount of LFOs assessed, distribution of LFOs that are fully paid, unpaid, or partially paid, and the number of days it takes defendants to fully settle their fines and fees within 180 days of assessment. The findings indicate an association between representation by a public defender and lower odds of full repayment of assessed LFOs, longer periods of carrying unpaid debt, and lower amounts assessed than defendants with private attorneys.
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- Of the nearly 93,000 defendants assessed LFOs, 18 percent fully paid off their LFOs within 180 days.
- 62 percent of all defendants did not make a single payment towards their LFOs within 180 days of assessment; 38 percent of private attorney defendants compared to 68 percent of public defenders defendants did not make a single payment towards their LFOs within 180 days of assessment.
- 15 percent of defendants with public defenders fully paid their LFOs within 180 days of assessment, compared to 35 percent of defendants with private attorneys.
- It takes an individual with a public defender a mean of 61 days to fully pay off their LFOs within the 180-day time frame; defendants with a private attorney take a mean of 44 days.
- The mean amount assessed for an individual with a private attorney is $773 and $585 for an individual with a public defender.
- Expand judicial discretion to be able to waive or reduce conviction fees based on a determination of indigence.
- Eliminate conviction fees that are statutorily mandated.