County Clerks in Tennessee automatically suspend the driver’s license of persons who fail to pay their traffic debt within a 30-90 day window.
The City of Ferguson jails people when they cannot afford to pay their traffic debt and cash bonds for other minor offenses. No inquiry is made into the person’s ability to pay, no alternatives to payment are offered to the individuals, and no counsel is provided.
Individuals must pay their unrelated LaGrange Municipal court fines and fees before gaining access to basic utility services. Further, the City charges $50 for a public defender. Unable to pay for a public defender, most people plead guilty or nolo contendere.
The complaint alleges Judge Jared Sigler, Judge John Gerkin, and former Judge Curtis DeLapp (Judicial Defendants) failed to conduct inquiries into individuals’ ability to pay before imposing fines and fees or before sanctioning individuals for nonpayment.
Alameda County contracts with Leaders in Community Alternatives (LCA) to provide court-ordered GPS tracking and alcohol monitoring devices for people on pre-trial or home detention. Although LCA is supposed to charge fees on a sliding scale based on a person’s ability to pay, LCA does not adjust its fees based on a person’s actual financial circumstances and never informs people that reduced fees are available.
Plaintiffs allege that South Carolina’s policy and practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of individuals who cannot afford to pay traffic fines and fees without first holding hearings to determine an individual’s ability to pay and the willfulness of their nonpayment(s) punishes individuals for their poverty.
Given the significant differences in purpose and effect between victim restitution and the fines and fees at issue in Dueñas, the rule of Dueñas does not extend to victim restitution and a defendant’s ability to pay is not a proper factor to consider in setting a victim restitution award.
Plaintiffs argue that their Equal protection and Due process rights were violated because of the inadequate notices, lack of inquiry into their ability to pay, and the suspension of their licenses solely because of their inability to pay.
This class action alleges that Alabama’s driver’s license suspension practices violate equal protection and due process because people are being punished without any determination of their ability to pay.
Plaintiff-Appellees were former criminal defendants in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court (OPCDC) who pleaded guilty to various criminal defenses and were assessed fines and fees. All were arrested for failure to pay their assessed fines and fees; bond was set at $20,000 each; and, they each spent between six days and two weeks in jail. The court’s collection of fines and fees funded about one quarter of the Judicial Expense Fund (JEF); the Judges had exclusive control over how the JEF was spent and generally used it for court staff salaries as well as other administrative and maintenance expenses.