Analysis

Synopsis:

 Senate Bill 181 (SB 181) provides flexibility for the payment of fines, fees and costs associated with convictions, and expands community service options. 

Analysis:

 Senate Bill 181 (SB 181) amends numerous sections of criminal procedure by providing flexibility for the payment of fines, fees and costs associated with convictions, and expands community service options.

First, the bill requires the judge in a criminal proceeding to assess a person’s ability to pay any fine, fee or costs at the time of sentencing.  The bill provides that if a person must pay the amount in full, if able to do so.  Installments are allowed in 30-day increments, and each installment cannot exceed two percent of a person’s net income, or $10, whichever is greater.  

Second, the bill expands what can be considered “community service” by including job training, school attendance or participation in social service or rehabilitation programs.  A person wo performs community service receives credit towards fines at twice the rate of the state, county or municipal hourly minimum wage (whichever is highest).  Current law provides that community service is credited toward the fees at the rate of the prevailing minimum wage.  

This bill provides that the court may revise or modify the installment plan only after conducting an additional ability to pay assessment.  

Current law provides that a person who is found to have willfully disobeyed an order to pay fines may be jailed until the fines are paid.  This bill adds that such a confined defendant earns credit towards the fines at twice the rate of the prevailing state, county or municipal hourly minimum wage (whichever is highest).  

If a person is jailed for nonpayment of fines, the person earns sixteen times the state, county or municipal hourly minimum wage (whichever is highest) to reduce their fines while incarcerated.  Currently, such a person earns eight times the federal minimum wage.  The bill also reduces the amount of time a person can be held in custody for not being able to pay fines from sixty days to fifteen days.   

The bill provides a definition of “costs” in the Indigent Defense Act to including the costs associated with trial, or costs or fees imposed by the court from a conviction or bench warrant.

The bill reduces the amount of time that a convict sentenced to the state penitentiary who has a fine attached to the sentence is required to serve, from thirty days to fifteen days.  

SB 181 removes the prohibition that magistrate and metropolitan judges were forbidden from waiving, deferring, or suspending certain fees (docketing fees for criminal actions, jury fees, copying fees, corrections fee, court automation fee, traffic safety fee, judicial education fee, jury and witness fee, brain injury services fee, court facilities fee, mediation fee).  

The bill clarifies that a municipal judge shall asses and collect certain fees only once, for each case resulting in conviction.  

SB 181 enacts a new section of the Motor Vehicle Code to provide that court costs or fees cannot be imposed on an indigent person convicted of a violation of the Motor Vehicle Code.  The court must determine indigency based on proof of enrollment in general assistance, food stamps, supplemental security income, federal food distribution program on an Indian reservation, temporary assistance for needy families, or other approved criteria. 

SB 181 also enacts a new section of the Indigent Defense Act that provides that a person determined to be a needy person under that act and who is convicted of a criminal offense cannot be assessed court costs, fees or fines.  


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