In my last post I wrote about some of the statutory options for providing relief from various criminal legal financial obligations. Several of my “friends” gave me a hard time about the post, saying the subject must be pretty complicated if I wasn’t able to compile it into some sort of table. Challenge accepted.
The table is available here.
What you’ll see if you care to take a look is a list of all the major legal financial obligations (LFO) that get imposed in North Carolina, organized by type. Those types are costs, non-cost fees, attorney fees, fines, and restitution, and there are even some subcategories within those types. And what I hope you’ll learn if you look at the columns to the right (and—bless your heart—the endnotes) is that the law on when a court can reduce or eliminate an LFO varies considerably by type. Only costs are “waived,” but costs, fines, and restitution can be “remitted.” Non-cost fees aren’t waived, they are “exempted.” And upon a defendant’s good-faith default, the court can “reduce” or “revoke” a cost or fine under yet another statutory provision. The back of the chart includes a glossary of sorts, explaining the statutory foundation for each avenue of relief.
Another thing I hope you’ll see as you take in the big picture is that the relatively recently enacted requirements for written “just cause” findings and notice and hearing for parties directly affected by a waiver or remission only apply to certain actions on certain types of LFOs. For example, only in the red blocks is the court required to make a just cause finding and give 15-day notice to directly affected parties before offering relief. Some types of relief are administratively more complicated than others, but rarely is relief impossible. The only LFO on the chart that is explicitly unforgiveable by statute is the $60 attorney appointment fee.
Speaking of the requirement for notice to affected parties, I wrote previously (here) about the AOC’s plan to satisfy the requirement by giving blanket, statewide notice to every entity that might be affected by a waiver or remission. My sense is that most districts have deemed the AOC’s approach to be a satisfactory means of complying with the statutory requirement. And it turns out that most of the potentially affected parties are okay with it, too. As explained here, AOC now invites potentially affected entities to lodge a standing objection or lack of objection to the waiver or remission of any cost or fine to which they might have been entitled. The AOC maintains a central registry of the responses it has received to that invitation. You can view the registry through the links here. What you’ll see is that, for now, most agencies haven’t responded. Among the few who have, some have registered a standing objection, while others have indicated a standing non-objection, along with a request to discontinue further notice from the AOC on the matter. It may be worth a look to see the agency responses from your neck of the woods.
This table is a draft of something that will appear in a larger work on criminal monetary obligations, so I would appreciate any feedback on how it could be improved. Thank you.