|Posted:||December 7, 2020 12:14 PM|
|From:||Representative Dan L. Miller and Rep. Jason Dawkins|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Compensating victims & providing uniform standards for collecting fines and costs|
|Despite the best efforts of many, we know that poorer Pennsylvanians are discriminated against in our criminal justice system because they cannot afford to pay fines and costs, whether from minor traffic cases or more serious criminal convictions. Our system lacks the flexibility and direction from the legislature to assist the court in addressing the economic disparities between rich and poor defendants, and the courts are suffering from inadequate funding that would stop the growing reliance of paying for court administration on the back of the defendants who sit before them. The failure of the legislature to act on these issues undermines confidence in the court and forces many Pennsylvanians to languish on probation simply because they are too poor to get off it.
In a series of decisions over the past two years, the Superior Court has repeatedly ruled that courts across Pennsylvania have violated defendants’ fundamental constitutional rights by jailing dozens each month for not paying fines and costs. PennDOT reports that tens of thousands of drivers lose their licenses each year simply because they fall behind on payments of fines and costs. Others face probation revocation or indefinite probation extensions because they are too poor to pay. A 2017 report from the Interbranch Commission on Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness highlighted these problems, and more recent news articles from counties across the state show the toll that unaffordable fines and costs take on individuals and their communities. And even when defendants can pay, the current system takes what money they have and puts it towards court costs rather than making victims whole through restitution.
We intend to re-introduce this bill would address this problem by placing clear guidelines in the law for courts to follow. It would:
Introduced as HB248