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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: April 13, 2018 08:49 AM
From: Representative Mary Jo Daley
To: All House members
Subject: Court Fee Waivers for the Indigent
In 2011, the Joint State Government Commission published a report on the state of the Commonwealth’s indigent defense services. The commission found that Pennsylvania had been consistently neglecting its indigent defendants, leaving them without the necessary resources to defend themselves in a court of law. Nearly nine years later, little has changed. Pennsylvania remains the only state in the nation that does not guarantee funding to public defenders. Indigent defendants remain ill-prepared to shoulder the dual-burden of mounting a legal defense and shouldering the subsequent administrative costs.

In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that aims to lessen the financial burden placed upon our indigent citizens. My proposal would provide a complete waiver of all court fees for indigent defendants who earn less than 150 percent of the Federal poverty level.

It has been found that the practice of sentencing defendants, who are unable to pay their court fees due to a lack of financial resources, to jail terms is widespread across the state. By placing these indigent individuals in prison for unpaid fees, it not only wastes valuable taxpayer dollars, but it creates an endless cycle of additional court fees and more prison time. We can no longer ignore the shortcomings of our criminal justice system and the persistent failure to protect the Fifth Amendment rights of our most disadvantaged citizens. I ask that you please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation as a first step towards equality in justice.

Introduced as HB2296