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 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.
This guide aims to inform litigators about various strategies to defend and gain relief for individual clients burdened by criminal justice debt. It also serves to foster communication and understanding among stakeholders who work in this particular area of the justice system.
Pennsylvania’s 2015 House Bill 2043 mandates that courts provide community service and payment plans as alternatives for people who would experience manifest hardship if they had to pay all of their fines and fees at once.
In this video recording of a White House Forum on Access to Justice panel, FFJC Co-Director Lisa Foster (then Director of the Office of Access to Justice at the Department of Justice) moderates a panel about how fines and fees in the criminal justice system can lead to a myriad of civil woes for low-income Americans.
In this essay, Marsh and Gerrick challenge the most common justification for why debtors’ prisons still exist in present-day America: generating revenue to fund local government and courts. The authors argue that revenue generation is an “incomplete explanation” for debtor’s prisons and point to a variety of other factors that could help complete the picture.
This Act reduces the amount of fees charged to individuals who receive a minor traffic or municipal ordinance violation and changes the procedure for charging fines and fees to people who receive minor traffic or municipal ordinance violations.
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.