This 2015 report provides a comprehensive overview of how California’s approach to the enforcement of fines and fees for traffic violations creates a two-tiered justice system—those who can afford to pay escape the system, while those who are too poor to pay are trapped.
Red Hills Community Probation, LLC contracted with local governments to supervise probation. Defendants unable to pay their court fines and fees were placed on probation.
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.
Over the course of six months in 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court Ability to Pay workgroup examined the issue of ability to pay and published a report with tools, best practices, and recommendations for judges and court staff around nonpayment incarceration.
In this video, John Oliver details the devastating impacts that low-income Americans suffer due to fines and fees and the involvement of private probation companies.
Ms. Reynolds had started a new job and could not get time off to appear in court. She spent four days in jail before she was brought before the judge. She was fined $520, $662 in court costs, and received additional fees of $450 for her original failure to appear. No credit was given for the four days she spent in jail. Her options were to pay the $1632 total or be put on a payment plan supervised by JCS.
The Municipal Court judge asks the defendants if they wish to pay or be put on a payment plan but rarely discloses the option of community service. If an individual asks for a payment plan, JCS sets the amount owed each month. No inquiry is made into the person’s ability to pay. The standard minimum payment is $140 per month.
The complaint alleged that impoverished city residents were jailed solely because of their inability to pay court fines and fees from traffic and other municipal violations.
The City of Ferguson jails people when they cannot afford to pay their traffic debt and cash bonds for other minor offenses. No inquiry is made into the person’s ability to pay, no alternatives to payment are offered to the individuals, and no counsel is provided.
This case challenges the constitutionality of the warrant recall fee, letter fee, and failure to appear fee imposed by Ferguson Municipal Court, alleging that these fees were enacted for profit and not to promote the welfare of the public.