This report is based on the authors’ research on traffic courts and driver’s license suspension practices in the San Francisco Bay Area. It details how much revenue courts collect from fines and fees, the harmful impacts those fees have on low-income Californians, and also advances several policy reform recommendations.
In late 2016, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors directed the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector to create a Fines and Fees Task Force (staffed by the Treasurer’s Financial Justice Project) to study the impact of fines and fees on San Franciscans & propose relevant reforms. About six months later, the Task Force published this initial report in order to provide an overview of fines and fees in San Francisco as well as an array of reform recommendations.
In March 2017, New Orleans nonprofit Stand with Dignity sponsored a Warrant Clinic in New Orleans. Over 1,200 people (who owed an average of $8,000 in fines and fees) participated in the clinic.
This bench card, which can be modified for state and local jurisdictions, advises judges on how to sanction indigent defendants for nonpayment of fines and fees without resorting to incarceration, outlines procedural protections for defendants who are unable to pay, and outlines standards for determining indigence.
For individuals who are unable to pay their fines and fees, their total debt may be cited and entered into the district court judgement docket. A judge may also replace fines and fees with court-ordered community service (credited at a minimum rate of at least federal minimum wage), if community service doesn’t cause undue hardship.
This joint report by Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project evaluates how often fine-only offenses - offenses punishable only by a fine and no jail sentence – in fact subject Texans to jail time and suspensions of driver’s licenses or the inability to renew a license or register a vehicle because of their inability to pay.
This bill describes how Nebraska courts should proceed in instances where a person cannot pay their fines and fees. It prohibits incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay and allows courts to reduce or waive fines and fees, or offer community service as an alternative.
The legislation provides protocol for how courts can authorize payment plans, deferred payments, and community service in lieu of immediate, full monetary payments.
In response to the Judicial Council of California’s directives, the Traffic and Criminal Law Advisory Committees authored this report which includes a proposal for three new rules, a rule amendment, and related commentary from stakeholders regarding their proposal. The recommended rules concern procedures for bail, fines, fees, and assessments imposed for infraction offenses; mandatory courtesy notices; and ability to pay determinations.
This Guide for Policy Reform by Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program is organized into four issue areas: conflicts of interest, poverty penalties and poverty traps (when people are forced to pay more or face harsher sanctions because of their poverty), the ability-to-pay determination, and transparency and accountability. Under each of these sections, a description of the problem is followed by legislative, judicial, and executive reform suggestions for people at the state level to use and incorporate into their efforts.