As budgets tighten, municipalities have turned to fines and fees to fill empty coffers. The result is that the rich may walk away, while the poor must pay or stay.
Fifteen percent of the Bogalusa City Court’s revenue is derived from court fines and fees. Judge Black gives indigent defendants the options of jail for nonpayment of fines and fees or the payment of an illegal $50 extension fee to buy additional time to pay their court debt.
Rozzie Scott, a resident of Bogalusa, Louisiana was found guilty of stealing $5 worth of food to feed his family. Judge Black ordered him to pay $450 in court fines and fees.
This order amends ten Michigan Court Rules to ensure that defendants are not incarcerated and probation terms are not extended because of unpaid fines and fees.
Levi Lane owed $4300.49 in traffic warrants. He was arrested for his inability to pay fines and fees. Mr. Lane was incarcerated for 24 days.
This case challenged the City of El Paso’s payment policy for Class C misdemeanors – usually parking tickets.
The question before the U.S. Supreme Court was whether the State is required to return court fines and fees paid upon conviction when the conviction is reversed on appeal. Both Petitioners’ convictions were reversed on appeal, and they sought a refund of the fines and fees they paid.
In March 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and Office for Access to Justice sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to State Court Administrators and Chief Justices in each state clarifying the legal framework that governs the enforcement of fines and fees, including the importance of procedural protections and, in appropriate cases, the right to counsel.
The case alleged that Sentinel’s practice of requiring people under its supervision to pay for and undergo drug testing without a court order violated due process and constituted an unconstitutional search.
This Note makes the case for considering state constitutional and statutory prohibitions on debtors’ prisons alongside Bearden v. Georgia claims in legal advocacy opposing excessive fines and fees.