Florida: House votes to send term limits for appellate courts to voters by 1 vote; constitutional amendment now goes to Senate

A plan to impose term limits on Florida appellate judges narrowly passed the House earlier today. HJR 1 needed 60% (72 votes) to advance, it got only 73 votes vs. 46 no votes. By comparison, the 2016 version (HJR 197) cleared with 76 yes votes.

HJR 1 as approved by the House limits appellate judges (Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal) to 12 consecutive years in office and prohibits them from being reappointed for 1 year after leaving office. It is specifically not retroactive and does not count any prior years of service on a court against a judge (“time served by the justice or district court judge in that office prior to January 9, 2019, shall not be included in the calculation of the total number of consecutive years served in that office.”)

The constitutional amendment now goes to the Senate.

West Virginia: bill would specify governor’s power to furloughs employees, including court employees & judges

In February after the state’s credit was downgraded, West Virginia’s Governor asked the legislature for a bill to allow him to furlough employees. An amended version of the Senate bill (SB 446) was approved by the full Senate earlier today.

The bill as introduced, and its House counterpart (HB 2879), was unclear about the power of the governor to furlough judicial employees. (“The furlough must be inclusive of all employees within a designated department, agency, division, office, or program, regardless of the source of funds, place of work, or classification.”)

Under the bill as committee amended and approved by the Senate, the process for judicial furloughs would be out of the governor’s control. Specifically:

  1. The governor is expressly prohibited from ordering a furlough of constitutional officers, employees of constitutional officers, or members or employees of the judicial branch.
  2. When the Governor declares a fiscal emergency pursuant to SB 446, the Supreme Court of Appeals shall have authority to furlough employees and personnel of the judiciary under the Supreme Court of Appeals, including employees and personnel of the circuit courts, family courts and magistrate courts.
  3. Furloughs shall not be employed so as to completely close a court or court office.
  4. Nothing in the section of SB 446 discussing furloughs of judicial branch employees “shall be construed as granting authority for the furlough of elected judicial officers, nor shall it be construed as restricting or otherwise limiting the plenary authority of the Supreme Court of Appeals or the lower courts.”

SB 446 as amended was approved by the Senate 23-11 and is now on its way to the House.

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

HB 1361 Prohibits imprisonment of defendants for nonpayment of fines, costs, fees and assessment. In House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee.

HB 1476 Provides “It is the policy of this state that no person shall be incarcerated for debt.” Deletes authority of trial court to convert sentences to pay a fine, cost, fee, or assessment into jail sentences. Repeals provision allowing court to send nonpayment notice to Department of Public Safety in order to recommend suspension of driving privileges. In House Judiciary – Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee.

HB 2289

  • Authorizes courts to waive outstanding fines, costs and fees under certain circumstances.
  • Provides payment/installment plans ordered by court may not exceed 10% of “discretionary income” and defines “discretionary income” as 150% over federal poverty line.
  • Directs Supreme Court to promulgate rules related to reporting and payment requirements and collection and distribution methods.
  • Provides for the establishment of pilot financial obligation payment program to determine whether offenders can make consistent payments of their court-ordered financial obligations for two (2) years in exchange for a waiver of the remaining fines, fees and court costs.

In House Appropriations and Budget Committee, Public Safety Subcommittee.

SB 121 Provides the court may adopt an alternative procedure for collecting an outstanding payment in misdemeanor cases. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 272 AS AMENDED BY SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

  • Directs automatic 12 month deferral of certain fines, fees and court costs for certain individuals recently released from imprisonment.
  • Allows after 12 months for court to waive fines, fees, and costs outright, extend deferral, or enter into payment plan.

Approved as amended by Senate Judiciary Committee 2/21/17.

SB 340 AS APPROVED BY FULL SENATE

Provides if defendant convicted in municipal criminal court of record for violation of city ordinance is without means to pay the fine or costs, and no undue hardship would result, the municipal judge may direct the defendant to perform community service at a rate of not less than the current federal minimum wage.

Approved by full Senate 2/20/17.

SB 342 AS APPROVED BY FULL SENATE

Creates task force to analyze fines, fees and court costs assessed throughout criminal justice process. Requires task force report by November 30, 2019 on

  1. The percentage of owed fees, fines and costs that are actually paid;
  2. How local and state governmental budgets are supported by fees, fines and costs;
  3. How fees, fines and costs contribute to jail and prison populations; and
  4. Recommendations for improvement to the existing system.

Approved by full Senate 3/22/17.

SB 689 AS APPROVED BY FULL SENATE

  • Provides absent a finding of willful nonpayment by the offender, the failure of an offender to pay fines and costs may not serve as a basis for revocation or probation.
  • Authorizes courts to waive outstanding fines, costs and fees under certain circumstances.
  • Provides payment/installment plans ordered by court may not exceed 10% of “discretionary income” and defines “discretionary income” as 150% over federal poverty line.

Approved by full Senate 3/21/17.

SB 793 AS APPROVED BY FULL SENATE

Creates Corrections and Criminal Justice oversight task force. Requires Department of Corrections deliver to task force data on, among other things, the amount and percentage of discretionary income each person under DOC supervision or control pays monthly that goes towards court fees, fines, and costs and the number of supervision extensions made due to failure to pay fines and fees.

Approved by full Senate 3/21/17.

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

HB 125 Prohibits a municipal corporation that is not authorized to establish a mayor’s court from imposing or charging fines, fees, or other charges that are in excess of, or not included in, the applicable municipal or county court’s schedule of fines and costs for violations of state law. In House Criminal Justice Committee.

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

AB 3354 Provides notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, a defendant who has been sentenced or is required to pay an assessment, penalty, or fee imposed in accordance with the provisions of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes may at any time, including the time of sentencing, apply to the court which sentenced him for a waiver of the assessment, penalty, or fee or of any unpaid portion thereof in accordance with rules adopted by the Supreme Court. If it appears to the satisfaction of the court that the defendant has demonstrated that requiring such payment would impose an extreme financial hardship or that it would otherwise be unjust to require payment, the court may waive the assessment, penalty, or fee or the unpaid portion thereof in whole or in part, or establish an appropriate payment schedule that takes into account the defendant’s financial or other circumstance. In Assembly Judiciary Committee.

AB 4455 Requires “miscellaneous revenues” in municipal budget expected to be realized from municipal court to be listed under “Fines and Costs” line item. In Assembly Judiciary Committee.

 

Special Edition: Arizona fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session (UPDATE)

Original here.

HB 2402 (Merger of SB 1158, SB 1160, and SB 1163) AS APPROVED/AMENDED BY SENATE JUDICIARY AND PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE 3/23/17.

Fine Mitigation and Restitution (part of former SB 1158)

  • Modifies the court’s ability to waive civil penalties, forfeitures and fines, instead allowing the court to mitigate them. Maintains requirements related to hardship and division of the amount assessed.
  • Stipulates that the court cannot mitigate the Clean Elections surcharge.
  • Allows the court to mitigate mandatory fines and civil penalties. They are not currently allowed to be waived.
  • Permits the court to waive or mitigate mandatory community restitution due to a defendant’s medical condition. Specifies this ability does not apply to community restitution in lieu of a monetary obligation.
  • Allows the court to mitigate a fine imposed on conviction for a drug offense.
  • Eliminates the requirement that a probationer be current on the payment of monetary obligations to receive earned time credit. Maintains the requirement that the probationer be current on court-ordered restitution.
  • Expands the ability of the court to order a defendant to perform community restitution in lieu of paying all or part of a monetary obligation if the court finds the defendant is unable to pay.
  • Specifies that community restitution in lieu of a monetary obligation does not apply to the Clean Elections surcharge.
  • Reduces the interest that accrues on a criminal restitution order in favor of the state from 10 percent to 4 percent per year.
  • Allows the court to waive all or part of the interest on a criminal restitution order in favor of any person entitled to restitution on agreement of the prosecutor and victim.

Removal of Debt (part of former SB 1158)

  • Allows the superior court, a justice of the peace or a municipal court to order all or part of a debt due to the court be removed from the accounting system if
    a) 20 years or more have elapsed from the date of the initial fine or other monetary obligation in a criminal or civil traffic case that resulted in the debt;
    b) the court notifies the prosecutor, defendant and victim, if the defendant’s and victim’s addresses are known, that the court may remove all or part of the debt and that any party or the victim may file an objection to the removal within 30 days after notification;
    c) the court makes reasonable attempts to collect the debt, including billing the debtor on at least four different dates;
    d) the court submits the debt for collection to a licensed collection agency and does not order the removal for at least a year while the agency attempts collection;
    e) the court notifies the Department of Revenue of the debt pursuant to statute; and
    f) the court notifies the county or city treasurer, as appropriate.
  • Requires the court to consider any objection in determining whether to remove the debt.

Sentences of Community Restitution or Education or Treatment (part of former SB 1158)

  • Permits the court to impose a term of community restitution or education or treatment if a conviction is for a misdemeanor and the person is not granted a period of probation or probation is revoked, in addition to any sentence authorized by law.
  • Requires the court to determine and fix the sentence for a definite period of time if the court imposes a sentence to perform community restitution for a misdemeanor conviction.
  • Requires the court or probation officer to determine the program of education or treatment.
  • Prohibits the term of education or treatment the court imposes from exceeding the term of probation for such convictions.

Miscellaneous (part of former SB 1158)

  • Relieves court clerks of their duty to automatically report unpaid fines, fees, incarceration costs or restitution and instead requires clerks to make the person’s payment history available for free only on request by:

a) the prosecutor;
b) the victim;
c) the victim’s attorney;
d) the probation department; and
e) the court.

  • Eliminates the ability of the court to revoke a defendant’s probation, parole or community supervision and to sentence the defendant to prison if the court finds the defendant:

a) has willfully failed to pay a fine, fee, assessment, restitution or incarceration costs; or
b) has intentionally refused to make a good faith effort to obtain the monies required for payment.

  • Allows time spent in actual custody to be credited in each sentence against the term of imprisonment if the defendant is released from custody pending trial on at least one charge, but remains in actual custody because of not being released pending trial on any other charge.
  • Modifies how a person on intensive probation is paid. Instead of the chief adult probation officer administering the defendant’s account and making payments on behalf of the defendant, the defendant’s probation officer will monitor the defendant’s wages to ensure the collection of restitution, fees, fines and other payments.
  • Adds assessments to requirements related to consequences and garnishment for nonpayment

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

HB 2591 AS APPROVED BY HOUSE STATE GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

  • Provides that a defendant who is an indigent person may petition the court for full or partial waiver of court assessments imposed under the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act. Sets percentages that may be waived based on level of indigence
  • Provides for 100% waiver if person is “indigent person”, defined as
    • He or she is receiving assistance under one or more of the following means-based governmental public benefits programs: Supplemental Security Income; Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; General Assistance; Transitional Assistance; or State Children and Family Assistance.
    • His or her available income is 200% or less of the current poverty level as established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, unless the applicant’s assets that are not exempt Code of Civil Procedure are of a nature and value that the court determines that the applicant is able to pay the assessments.
    • He or she is, in the discretion of the court, unable to proceed in an action with payment of assessments and whose payment of those assessments would result in substantial hardship to the person or his or her family.
  • Allows for partial based on sliding scale of indigence
    • 75% waiver if 250-300% of the poverty level
    • 50% waiver if 300-350% of the poverty level
    • 25% waiver if 351-400% of the poverty level
  • Requires clerk provide notice “If you are unable to pay the required assessments, you may ask the court to allow you to proceed without paying them. Ask the clerk of the court for forms.”

Approved as amended by House State Government Administration Committee 3/22/17.