Fees are charged at virtually every point in the criminal legal system, even on traffic tickets and minor infractions. Fees are not meant to be punitive and exist only to raise money for state and local governments. They can total hundreds of dollars (not including the amount of any fine imposed) and can be extremely difficult to collect. Individuals are required to pay fees on top of a fine, or in many cases, even when the judge decides not to impose a fine at all.
Fees associated with traffic and criminal offenses are a toxic source of government revenue that lead to increased incarceration while undermining community health and safety. Eliminating fees will free up law enforcement and courts to focus on public safety and provide much-needed relief to struggling families.
What this bill does:
- Eliminates post-adjudication fees
- Eliminates bench warrant fees
- DOES NOT limit a judge’s discretion to issue a bench warrant, nor impose conditions of a conviction such as probation, jail, and other punitive and rehabilitative activities.
Fees are an inefficient, expensive and unreliable source of government revenue.
Fees can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars. This is a significant financial burden for many people in New Mexico. Not only do our counterproductive fees policies waste precious resources and clog our courts, they cause irreparable damage to working families.
Courts and police are there to keep us and our communities safe. New Mexico is using limited public safety resources to chase uncollectable debts.
New Mexico jails people who can’t afford to pay court fees.
Incarceration of indigent debtors is unconstitutional under federal law. Still many respondents to a recent statewide survey (48%) indicated they had, in fact, “paid off” their debt through jail credits (i.e. time spent in jail in lieu of financial payment) when they could not afford to pay court fines/fees.
Jailing people is a huge cost to tax-payers and generates no revenue. It costs approximately $95 per day to house someone in a NM county jail. That’s $665 per week, $2,660 per month. New Mexico counties spend 41 cents to collect a single dollar of fine and fee revenue at the same time.
Imposing criminal fees is correlated with higher recidivism rates.
Fees harm entire communities, not just the individuals to whom they are assessed. Research demonstrates that court fees tend to disproportionately impact women who are more likely to help family, friends, and partners pay their debt.9 Further, in a recent survey, 78% of respondents said they borrowed money from a relative/friend to pay their fines and fees. Research suggests that rather than being a tool to hold people accountable, fines and fees are stripping wealth from vulnerable communities.1]