LISTEN: Report Slams Florida For High Fees and Fines for Low-Level Charges

A new report from the public defense group of the American Bar Association says Florida’s court systems are driving low-income people accused of low-level crimes into debt with fines and fees they can’t afford to pay. The report focused on misdemeanor defendants, and says rules keep Florida’s courts from looking at ability to pay, or to reduce or waive fees and fines. According to the report, the most common outcome of a failure-to-pay situation is driver license suspension, which affected more than 700,000 Floridians at last count.

Sarah Couture, Florida director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, says that those who don’t have transportation often end up missing more hearings, leading to more fines and potentially arrest warrants. Those aren’t warrants for the debt per se, but for not showing up for the hearings.

Former State Senator Jeff Brandes worked on these issues while in the Legislature. Now founder of the Florida Policy Project, Brandes says the fines and fees placed on those facing low-level charges create “a negative cycle and no-win scenario for indigent defendants.” His group applauds the ABA report for pointing out policy that needs significant reform. “The recommendations made align with our mission to identify best practices to create better outcomes in a system that is fundamentally broken,” Brandes said in a statement.

Listen to WFLA’s interview with Sarah Couture here.

Stay Connected

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: . You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact
Scroll to Top