Court fines and fees can easily add up
For many people involved in California’s criminal justice system, even after they have complied with the requirements of their sentence, they find themselves struggling with the consequences of a conviction. In California, criminal cases typically involve a range of fines and fees. For those who cannot afford to pay those fines and fees, it can mean that a conviction can have long-lasting consequences — and can sink them into substantial debt.
Each California county has its own system of fees, which can be complicated to understand. For example, San Luis Obispo charges $55 for each court-mandated drug test. In San Mateo, an ankle monitor costs $30 per day. And in Butte County, a court-mandated report costs over $1,000. According to Debt Free Justice California, there are between 100 to 150 sections of the California code that allow counties to charge fees to those involved in the criminal justice system.
As a criminal defense lawyer Riverside, CA can explain, the result is that many people across California are saddled with debt that they simply cannot pay. Cities and counties are then spending money to attempt to collect these debts. Some counties have already eliminated local court fees, including San Francisco and Alameda. These counties also discharged more than $70 million in debt for its residents.
To address these issues, Senator Holly Mitchell has introduced Senate Bill 144 (SB 144), the Families Over Fees Act. This law would eliminate many administrative fees associated with criminal court. It would also discharge billions of dollars in debt.
While these fees would eliminate a source of revenue for counties, it would also ease the burden of debt for many Californians. Many people who are arrested and incarcerated are low income, and the fees charged are simply unaffordable. One national study found that two-thirds of people on probation make less than $20,000 per year, and almost 40% make under $10,000 per year. Another survey found that in Oakland, mothers pay almost 50% of court costs. This puts the burden of paying high fees and funding local governments on those that can least afford it.
A recent court case shows that there may be hope for Californians who are required to pay fees that they cannot afford. A homeless mother was charged with a criminal offense for failing to pay traffic fees. On appeal, the court decided that prosecutors must prove that a person has the ability to pay before bringing criminal charges.
The question of fees will continue to be debated at the highest levels in California. Currently, if you have outstanding debt from court fees, you may face consequences for failing to pay it. An experienced criminal defense lawyer Riverside, CA can work with you and explain your options for resolving this debt.
At the Chambers Law Firm, we believe in advocating for our clients through each stage of the process, from the initial arrest through the appeals process. We work collaboratively with our clients to help them achieve the best possible result. Contact our firm today at 855-397-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free initial consultation.