Going to Jail for Being Poor

Posted by NCBRC - May 21, 2014

NPR did a story this week about how the poor are being saddled by increasing fees associated with the criminal justice system.  The story highlights a disturbing trend in which people are facing jail time that is disproportionate to their crime because they are too poor to pay assessed fees, such as electronic monitoring fees, collection fees, probation fees, and public defender fees.  A case currently pending before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, In re Lopez, challenges lower court decisions holding that such fees are non-dischargeable fines and penalties.  In Lopez, the debtor does not contest the nondischargeability of his restitution debt, but he does argue that more than $1,000 in costs for items such as the Judicial Computer Project, Firearm Education and Training Fund, collection fees, etc. are dischargeable.  Last week, the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri in In re Miller, 2014 WL 2012828 (Bankr. W.D. Mo. May 15, 2014) adopted an argument similar to that made by Lopez and held that such fees did not constitute a “fine, penalty or forfeiture” because the purpose of imposing the fees is not penal in nature.


Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.