The Brennan Center for Justice released a first-of-its-kind report, The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines: A Fiscal Analysis of Three States and Ten Counties, revealing that court-imposed fees and fines thwart rehabilitation, fail to make communities safer, and are an insufficient source of government revenue.
The Brennan Center’s report analyzes ten counties within Florida, New Mexico and Texas, as well as statewide data for those three states. Among the report’s key recommendations are: (1) states and localities should pass legislation to eliminate court fees imposed to fund the government; (2) states should institute a sliding scale when assessing fines based on ability to pay; (3) courts should stop jailing individuals for their failure to pay court-imposed fees; and (4) states should stop suspending driver’s licenses for people who are unable to pay their fees and fines.
The release of the Brennan Center’s report follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Timbs v. Indiana that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive fines applies to state governments as well. On remand, the Indiana Supreme Court determined that the state’s seizure of Timbs’s vehicle was a fine. The Brennan Center and others filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Timbs, which argued that civil asset forfeiture is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.