This report documents how and when youth and families face fines, fees and restitution and the economic and legal consequences for failure to pay.
Defendant argued that the imposition of court fines and fees is a tax, violated the separation of powers doctrine, and failed to comply with the Distinct Statement Clause.
In Pagedale, MO, the local government was using arrest warrants to collect civil debt from municipal code violations. A suit against the city resulted in a consent decree that reformed the city's ticketing, housing code, and court systems.
On appeal, the Court found, per curiam, a trial court may not revoke a defendant’s probation and send him to prison unless there is a finding that he or she has the ability to pay restitution and is in willful default.
Plaintiffs alleged that the City of Austin jails people who are unable to pay court fines and fees. There is no inquiry into their ability to pay, no appointment of counsel, and community service is not offered as an alternative.
Providence Community Corrections (PCC), a private for profit organization, was the manager of the misdemeanor probation system for Rutherford County, Tennessee. Those who could afford to pay the fees were placed on unsupervised probation, those who could not were supervised by PCC. PCC was funded solely by the people it supervised. Probationers were threatened with arrest and revocation of probation which would result in additional fees and court costs.
This case alleged that the City of Biloxi operated a debtor’s prison, routinely jailing indigent people who could not afford to pay fines and fees imposed in traffic and misdemeanor cases.
This case challenged Benton County, Washington’s practice of incarcerating indigent defendants for failure to pay court fines and fees without any inquiry into their financial status or ability to pay.
In Alexander City, municipal court defendants must pay their court fines and fees from traffic debt in full by the end of the court day, usually 3:00 p.m. Persons unable to pay are forced to sit out their time in city jail, at the rate of $20 per day until someone pays their debt.
Plaintiff, a 20 year old college student, was sentenced to jail because he was unable to pay a $206 statutory fine with $33 in court costs for throwing a cigarette butt out of his car window.