US Commission on Civil Rights calls for counsel in fees/fines cases

09/01/2017, Report, Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)

A report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that


Lack of counsel in municipal court cases that involve only fines and fees can exacerbate problems that arise when courts fail to conduct ability to pay determinations and consider fee alternatives for indigent defendants. Counsel can assist in presenting evidence regarding a defendant’s ability to pay fines and fees, negotiating lower fines and fees or alternate payment plans, and making sure the defendant understands the implications of any payment commitments made.


It recommended that "Courts and municipalities should establish a program to provide counsel at no cost at the imposition of a fine or fee and at an indigency determination as appropriate."