Philly DA Eliminates Fines And Fees For Defendants In Poverty

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced that the city will eliminate various court-related fines and fees for impoverished defendants, and will instead focus on their payment of restitution in cases involving victims according to the Philly Voice

"Today, Philadelphia is a giant leap closer to a truly fair and consistent system of justice in which low-income defendants do not face additional punishment by way of unaffordable fines and fees that drive them deeper into debt and poverty," said Krasner. 

The current system requires defendants to pay fees such as the court-mandated booking center fee ($175), judicial computer project fee ($12), Commonwealth costs ($20.30), costs of prosecution ($50), county court costs ($29.85), state court costs ($13.55), monthly offender supervision fees (minimum $25) and fees associated with the particular crimes in question. -Philly Voice

Under the new policy, fees would be waived for indigent defendants if they meet the following criteria. 

  • Representation by the public defender, court-appointed counsel, pro bono counsel, or any free legal services organization
  • Are receiving means-based public assistance
  • Have an income at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Provide evidence showing that they are indigent

"Waiving fines and fees can help indigent defendants afford transportation and other costs associated with employment, education and training programs, completing probation terms, and child or elder care," added Krasner. 

For offenders who owe restitution to a victim, what little funds or income they do have would be used to make those payments. 

"For people living just above the poverty line, fines and court fees become an obstacle to rehabilitation," said Chief Defender Keir Bradford-Grey of the Philadelphia Defender Association. "They can trap people in a cycle of poverty and incarceration and effectively turn our jails into debtors’ prisons. Just last year, courts in Philadelphia ordered people to pay over $21 million in fees despite the fact that more than a quarter of Philadelphians live below the poverty line."