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.
Stearns examines the imposition and enforcement of Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) in Washington State on people unable to pay them and argues that the resulting disparities impact the ability of the criminal justice system to impose fair and meaningful penalties that hold people accountable and reduce recidivism.
Mr. Blazina was sentenced to 20 months in prison for second degree assault. Attached to his sentence was over $3000 in fees and tens of thousands of dollars in restitution. The Washington Supreme Court held that individualized inquiries of the defendant’s current and future ability to pay must be made before imposing Legal Financial Obligations.
This publication uses personal accounts of people in five different states who struggled to pay their court debt to illustrate the negative effects of debtors’ prisons on individuals, the economy, and the justice system.
To develop an understanding of how fines and fees are imposed and enforced in Washington State, this study analyzes 50 interviews with Washington State residents as well as data from 3,366 Washington Superior Court cases.