Special Edition: Massachusetts fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

HB 1812 allows for medical necessity grace periods for payment of civil motor vehicle infractions or parking violations. Requires cities and towns immediately notify registrar of motor vehicles electronically of payments made for citations that could result in license suspension. In Joint Transportation Committee.

HB 2359

  • Prohibits judges from confining person solely for non-payment of monies owed if such person has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the person is not able to pay without causing substantial financial hardship to such person or the family or dependents thereof.
  • Provides person sentenced to pay fine, fee, etc. has a right to address the court on inability to pay.
  • Allows for waiver or reduction of various assessments, fees,  if they would cause a substantial financial hardship upon the person or the person’s family or dependents.
  • Requires court consider alternatives to incarceration before confining person for non-payment.
  • Expands use of monthly payment plans for assessments.Requires person in non-payment hearing be offered counsel and, if indigent, counsel to be offered for no fee.
  • Expands use of civil citations in lieu of arrest/criminal proceeding for misdemeanor, civil infraction, violations, etc.
  • Prohibits entirely confinement of juvenile for non-payment.

In Joint Judiciary Committee.

SB 755

  • Prohibits judges from confining person solely for non-payment of monies owed if such person has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the person is not able to pay without causing substantial financial hardship to such person or the family or dependents thereof.
  • Allows for waiver or reduction of various assessments, fees,  if they would cause a substantial financial hardship upon the person or the person’s family or dependents.
  • Requires court consider alternatives to incarceration before confining person for non-payment.
  • Provides person sentenced to pay fine, fee, etc. has a right to address the court on inability to pay.

In Joint Judiciary Committee.

SB 777

  • Prohibits judges from confining person solely for non-payment of monies owed if such person has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the person is not able to pay without causing substantial financial hardship to such person or the family or dependents thereof.
  • Provides person sentenced to pay fine, fee, etc. has a right to address the court on inability to pay.
  • Allows for waiver or reduction of various assessments, fees,  if they would cause a substantial financial hardship upon the person or the person’s family or dependents.
  • Requires court consider alternatives to incarceration before confining person for non-payment.
  • Expands use of monthly payment plans for assessments.Requires person in non-payment hearing be offered counsel and, if indigent, counsel to be offered for no fee.
  • Expands use of civil citations in lieu of arrest/criminal proceeding for misdemeanor, civil infraction, violations, etc.
  • Prohibits entirely confinement of juvenile for non-payment.

In Joint Judiciary Committee.

 

 

Oklahoma: Senate approves 37-3 bill to require all District Court nominees have tried at least 3 jury trials; no other state has such a provision

A plan (discussed here) to require nominees for Oklahoma’s main trial court (District) have jury trial experience has cleared the Senate.

Many, but not all, states require their judges be “attorneys” or in some cases “practicing attorneys”. And the Oklahoma constitution already requires “a minimum of four years’ experience as a licensed practicing attorney” or service as a judge of some other court of record before taking to the District Court bench. The same constitutional provision also allows the legislature to add to these criteria (“and shall have such additional qualifications as may be prescribed by statute.”)

Under SB 708 of 2017 those “additional qualifications” would now include “experience as lead counsel in a minimum of three (3) jury trials brought to verdict prior to filing for such office or appointment.” No other state has such a trial-experience provision.

SB 708 having passed the Senate 37-3 on March 21 has been sent to the House.

Oklahoma: House and Senate advance plans to change structure of state’s supreme court, end merit selection

The Oklahoma House and Senate this week advanced bills to change the way the state’s appellate courts in general, and their supreme court in particular, are selected and structured.

Supreme Court Districts

On the House side, HB 1925 approved 77-16 would change the Supreme Court judicial districts (discussed here), creating 5 district-specific and 4 at-large seats on court.

  • 5 justices would be selected, 1 for each Congressional District as constituted on November 1, 2017. For transition purposes, the current seats from Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 would turn into Congressional-District based seats.
  • 4 justices would be selected at-large, however 2 justices must come from counties with a population of less than 75,000. The current seats from Districts 2, 7, 8, and 9 would transition to at-large.

Justices would still have to face statewide yes/no retention elections.

SB 213 approved 44-1 also addresses Supreme Court judicial districts. Under that plan

  • 5 justices would be selected, 1 for each Congressional District as constituted on November 1, 2017.
  • 4 justices would be selected at-large. There is no mention of selection from rural counties

Appellate Court Selection

On the selection side, the Senate advanced two constitutional amendments.

SJR 43 approved 37-8 ends merit/commission selection for the state’s appellate courts. Instead, the governor would nominate an individual and submit his/her name to the Judicial Nominating Commission for a review as “qualified” or “not qualified”. The nominee would then be subject to Senate confirmation and yes/no retention elections.

SJR 44 approved 38-7 would keep the state’s merit/commission selection system but require the Judicial Nominating Commission send the Governor 5 names (currently 3) for consideration and allow the Governor to ask for another list, for a total of 10 names. It requires the nominee be subject to Senate confirmation and provides if Senate fails to act within certain time frame(s) the nominee is confirmed by default. Once confirmed, the judges/justices would be subject to yes/no retention elections.

Special Edition: Kentucky fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

SB 120 AS APPROVED BY SENATE

  • Amends definition of “poor person” to include a person who has an income at or below one hundred percent (100%) on the sliding scale of indigency established by the Supreme Court of Kentucky by rule (currently limited to “unable to pay the costs and fees of the proceeding in which he is involved without depriving himself or his dependents of the necessities of life, including food, shelter, or clothing.”)
  • Includes fines (e.g. “court costs, fees, or fines”) in list of items for which a court may establish an installment payment plan.
  • Specifies procedures to be used in creation of installment payment plan and provides priorities (“Installment payments shall be applied first to court costs, then to restitution, then to fees, and then to fines.”)
  • Requires a show cause hearing before court may respond/take action regarding nonpayment. Provides court must determine whether the nonpayment is

1) Excusable due to an inability to pay, and if so, the court may enter an order allowing additional time for payment, reducing the amount of each installment, or modifying the manner of payment in any other way; or

2) Willful and not due to an inability to pay, and if so, the court may order the defendant to jail on the condition that the defendant shall be released upon payment or completion of daily credit.

  • Allows for issuance of warrant if party fails to appear for nonpayment show cause hearing.
  • Requires that unless the defendant is incarcerated pursuant to orders in other cases, upon the service of sufficient days in jail to have sufficient credit to satisfy the court costs, fees, or fines, the defendant shall be released from jail.

Approved by Senate 2/24/17. Approved by House with House amendments 3/15/17. To Senate to concur with House amendments.

Special Edition: Kansas fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

SB 181 AS AMENDED AND APPROVED BY FULL SENATE

  • Authorizes the chief judge of each judicial district to recall any warrants directly related to the suspension, waive reinstatement and collection fees directly related to the suspension, and offer payment plans, to be administered by the county or district attorney, to persons who are unable to pay in full.
  • Authorizes a person unable to pay due to hardship or lack of employment to enter into an additional agreement with the court to receive a credit against any fines imposed by performing community service or attending classes aimed at developing job skills and gaining employment, as approved by the court Provides credit would be $5 for each full hour spent by the person on community service and $8 for each full hour spent attending classes.

Approved by full Senate 2/23/17. In House Judiciary Committee.

Special Edition: Indiana fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

HB 1268 Urges the legislative council to assign to the appropriate study committee the topic of studying a traffic amnesty program to permit certain persons owing unpaid traffic fines, or who may be required to pay a fee for driver’s license reinstatement, to obtain a reduction in the amount owed or amount payable. Approved by full House 2/23/17. Approved by full Senate 3/20/17. Returned to House for transmission to Governor.

Special Edition: Florida fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

HB 1017 AS COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTED:

  •  Amends existing law requiring the clerk of court to enter into a payment plan with an individual whom the court determines is indigent for costs and allows clerks to enter into payment plans with anyone. Provides that the monthly payment amount may not exceed two percent of the person’s annual net income, divided by 12, without the consent of the applicant.
  • Provides clerk may not assess any surcharge to refer the account to a private attorney or collection agent.
  • Provides collection agent or private attorney may not impose any additional fees or surcharges other than the contractually agreed upon amounts.
  • Requires traffic citation forms including information indicating
    that a person may enter into a payment plan with the clerk of court to pay a penalty.
  • Requires traffic citation forms indicate that a person ordered to pay a penalty for a noncriminal traffic infraction who is unable to comply due to demonstrable financial hardship will be allowed by the court to satisfy payment by participating in community service.
  • In civil citations/failure to appear, provides person’s driver license may not be suspended solely for failure to pay a penalty if the person demonstrates to the court that he or she is unable to pay, as evidenced by the person providing documentation to the appropriate clerk of court.
    1. The person receives reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation;
    2. The person is disabled and incapable of self-support or receives benefits under the federal Supplemental Security Income program or the Social Security Disability Insurance Program;
    3. The person receives temporary cash assistance;
    4. The person is making payments in accordance with a confirmed bankruptcy plan under chapter 11, chapter 12, or chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code;
    5. The person has been placed on a payment plan or payment plans with the clerk of court which in total exceed what is determined to be a reasonable payment plan; or
    6. The person has been determined to be indigent after filing an application with the clerk of court
  • In criminal cases, may not be suspended solely for failure to pay a penalty or court obligation if the person demonstrates to the court, after the court orders the penalty or obligation and before the suspension takes place, that he or she is unable to pay the penalty or court obligation. Specifies documentation (same as civil citations/failure to appear list, above) that demonstrates person is considered unable to pay to include
  • For traffic infractions, requires court to determine at the time a civil penalty is ordered whether the person is able to pay the penalty.

Approved by House Appropriation’s Committee, Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee 3/14/17.

HB 547

Requires specified reduction for civil penalty under certain circumstances. Deletes requirement that specified percentage of civil penalty be deposited in State Courts Revenue Trust Fund. Requires person to pay clerk of court specified percentage previously deducted under certain circumstances. In House Appropriation’s Committee, Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee.

HB 1173 AS APPROVED IN SUBCOMMITTEE

  • Requires the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to immediately suspend the motor vehicle registration for the first offense of failing to comply with a civil traffic infraction.
  • Keeps the existing driver license suspension penalty for a subsequent offense.
  • Allows the clerk of the court to authorize community service for indigent applicants for noncriminal traffic infractions and provides guidelines for authorizing community service. Courts can currently authorize community service if a person shows demonstrable financial hardship.

Approved by House Appropriation’s Committee, Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee 3/21/17.

SB 302 AS COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTED

  • Removes suspension and revocation penalties for a number of specified non-driving-related offenses
  • Allows individuals whose licenses are suspended for failure to comply with a court order or failure to pay court financial obligations to apply for a hardship license issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
  • Requires the court to inquire about a person’s financial ability to pay a fine at the time a civil penalty is ordered in court
  • Prohibits a Driver’s License (DL) from being suspended solely for inability to pay a financial penalty or court obligation if the individual demonstrates to the court that he or she cannot pay
  • Adds criteria of what evidence demonstrates to the court that a person is unable to pay
    1. The person receives reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation;
    2. The person is disabled and incapable of self-support or receives benefits under the federal Supplemental Security Income program or the Social Security Disability Insurance Program;
    3. The person receives temporary cash assistance;
    4. The person is making payments in accordance with a confirmed bankruptcy plan under chapter 11, chapter 12, or chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code;
    5. The person has been placed on a payment plan or payment plans with the clerk of court which in total exceed what is determined to be a reasonable payment plan; or
    6. The person has been determined to be indigent after filing an application with the clerk of court
  • Prohibits court-approved payment plans from exceeding two percent of an applicant’s income, unless approved by the applicant

Approved as substituted by Senate Transportation Committee 2/7/17.

SB 1574 See HB 1173 as filed. In Senate Criminal Justice Committee.