This report documents that the families of children charged with crimes are forced to pay for the cost of legal counsel in all but 10 U.S. states – despite the Constitution’s guarantee that young people who are indigent are entitled to court-appointed counsel.
In the summer of 2018, New Orleans became the first city in the South to abolish fees charged to youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
James Brooks paid Leaders in Community Alternatives, a private probation company, $1,629 for 58 days to avoid jail and to continue to be able to care for his ill mother.
This report is a result of a comprehensive review of New Jersey municipal courts by the Supreme Court Committee on Municipal Court Operations, Fines, and Fees.
Jane Doe was driving and arrived at a traffic checkpoint operated by the Buffalo Police Department. Because she lacked a harness for her children's booster seats, she was assessed eight points on her driver’s license, $446 in fines and $450 for a Driver Responsibility Assessment. During this time, Ms. Doe was a full time student with no income. BTVA refused to accept partial payments or provide a payment plan. Unable to pay, her learner’s permit was suspended. In 2018, she used her tax refund to pay her traffic tickets and reinstate her permit.
Hilda Brucker received citations for rotted wood and chipped paint, weeds in her yard and ivy on her trees, and cracks in her driveway.
In 2017, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Financial Justice Project, and Mayor’s Office of Budget and Public Policy studied the collateral consequences of criminal justice administrative fees on San Franciscans. Their findings were published in this report, which also coincides with 2018 San Francisco County legislation that abolished all discretionary fees imposed by the county.
In November 2015, McNeil pled guilty to driving with a revoked license. She was placed on probation for 11 months and 29 days and ordered to pay $426 in fines and fees, $25 each week in court costs and fines, $45 a month in supervision fees, and $45 for each drug test.
The National Council of Juvenile Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) passed a resolution advocating for the reduction or elimination of fines and fees in juvenile courts. The resolution was published alongside a judicial bench card that outlines types of financial obligations that youth and families may encounter in juvenile and family court, details the impacts of those obligations, and explains how judges can address fines and fees in their own courtrooms. The bench card includes several practice recommendations for juvenile and family court judges.
In Michigan, legislation that abolishes the state’s “driver responsibility fees” took effect on October 1, 2018. These fees were introduced in 2003 as a way to balance the state budget, and they have imposed a crushing burden on at least 350,000 drivers statewide.