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

HB 380 Authorizes any municipal court judge to remit fines, court costs, fees, payments, and other charges in cases where the court determines that a defendant cannot afford to pay the full amount that would otherwise be required by law. In House Judiciary Committee.

SB 36Fairness in Enforcement of Fines and Fees Act.” In Senate Judiciary Committee.

Prohibits a person from being incarcerated for nonpayment of fines or fees without a prior indigency determination and would provide the person with certain notifications.

Requires a person charged with a traffic violation or minor misdemeanor be provided with adequate information, including the charges against him or her and the options he or she has for resolving the charges.

Requires a court to proportion all fines, fees, and costs imposed by the court when a sufficient showing of indigency has been made and would require the court to consider alternative sentencing, such as payment plan options or community service in lieu of paying fines and fees.

Requires notice regarding the waiver of posting certain bonds based on the inability to pay and would require meaningful notice and adequate representation, including counsel, in cases where the enforcement of fines and fees could result in imprisonment.

Prohibits the use of arrest warrants as a means of coercing payment of a court debt and prohibit arrest warrants from being issued in response to the inability of a person to pay a fine or fee.

Provides that if a defendant fails to make a court appearance the court would have to conduct a hearing on why a warrant should not be issued and include an assessment of the ability of the person to pay any pending fine or fee.

Provides that the failure of a person to appear or pay a fine in a case involving a traffic violation or minor misdemeanor may not be grounds for suspension of the driver’s license of the person and would provide for immediate reinstatement of the driver’s license of any person whose driver’s license has been suspended for failing to appear or pay a fine in such cases.

Requires a municipality to ensure the sufficient independence of its municipal judges to avoid impropriety and existing or potential conflicts of interest.

Requires courts and municipal or other governmental entities to provide appropriate training on safeguarding against unconstitutional practices by its staff and private contractors.

SB 37 Authorizes courts to order deferred or installment payments or community service for traffic violations and misdemeanors. Prohibits court from suspending driver’s license for failure to appear or pay fines or court costs. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 38 Authorizes courts to order deferred or installment payments or community service for traffic violations and misdemeanors. Prohibits court from suspending driver’s license for failure to appear or pay fines or court costs if violator making payments. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 39 Requires courts consider alternatives to incarceration for defendants unable to pay fines or court fees, to provide notice when enforcing fines and court fees, and to safeguard against unconstitutional practices by court staff and private contractors. Prohibits courts from incarcerating a person for nonpayment of fines or court fees without first conducting an indigency determination and establishing that the failure to pay was willful; from conditioning access to a judicial hearing on the prepayment of fines or court fees; from using arrest warrants or driver’s license suspension as a means of coercing the payment of court debt when individuals have not been afforded constitutionally adequate procedural protections; and from employing bail or bond practices that cause defendants to remain incarcerated solely because they cannot afford to pay for their release. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 42  Prohibits suspension of driver’s license for for failure to pay fines, fees, or court costs. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 162 Prohibits suspension or revocation of driver’s license for for failure or inability to pay fines, fees, or court costs. In Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 281 Authorizes any municipal court judge to remit fines, court costs, fees, payments, and other charges in cases where the court determines that a defendant cannot afford to pay the full amount that would otherwise be required by law. In Senate Judiciary Committee.