The Administrative Office of the Courts has submitted its annual report on criminal cost waivers to the General Assembly. The report, available here, tracks court cost waivers under G.S. 7A-304(a)—among other things. Continue reading
Tag Archives: costs
With the work of the court system picking up steam after its holiday pause—perhaps with an additional interruption for winter weather in some parts of the state (stay safe, everyone)—questions are rolling in about the new notice and hearing procedures for waivers and remissions of costs, fines, and restitution. Continue reading →
Under G.S. 7A-304(a), when a defendant is convicted, court costs “shall be assessed,” unless the court waives them pursuant to a written order determining that there is just cause to do so. Assess or waive—those are, in general, the statutory options. They are not, however, the only things that happen in real life. We can see in the AOC’s annual report on court cost waivers (discussed and linked here) that there are other possible outcomes, including costs being flagged as “not assessed.” That is the subject of today’s post. Continue reading →
On December 1, 2017, two new rules will kick in for waivers and remissions of costs, fines, and restitution. Today’s post offers some preliminary thoughts on those new rules. Continue reading →
The Administrative Office of the Courts recently submitted two reports on criminal cost waivers to the General Assembly. The first report covers court cost waivers under G.S. 7A-304(a). The other is about costs remitted upon remand from superior court to district court under G.S. 15A-1431(h). Both reports sort waivers by district or county and by individual judge. Continue reading →
The U.S. Department of Justice recently issued a letter regarding its “strong interest” in putting a stop to unconstitutional court fines and fees that target the poor. According to the authors, Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Department, and Lisa Foster, Director of the Office for Access to Justice, “[T]he harm caused by unlawful practices . . . can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.” The DOJ sent the letter to judges and court administrators in all fifty states on March 14, 2016, directing them to review their procedures on imposing and enforcing fines and fees. An article from the New York Times states that the DOJ rarely issues “Dear colleague” letters of this sort; the last one went out in 2010 and concerned the need to provide interpreters for people who don’t speak English. Continue reading →
Earlier this year National Public Radio ran a series on court costs entitled Guilty and Charged. The general point of the series was that “the costs of the criminal justice system in the United States are paid increasingly by the defendants and offenders”—a population that is mostly poor. Missed payments often lead to more fees, interest, probation violations, and eventually incarceration.
North Carolina is no exception to the national trend. Continue reading →
A DWI conviction will cost you.
Let’s take the case of a typical defendant who has never before been charged with or convicted of DWI. I’ll call him Forrest Firsttimer.
Forrest is arrested at a DWI checkpoint. He submits to a breath test, which reports an alcohol concentration of 0.08. Forrest is taken before a magistrate for an initial appearance. The magistrate revokes Forrest’s driver’s license for a minimum period of 30 days and releases Forrest on his written promise to appear. Eleven days later, Forrest applies for a limited driving privilege pursuant to G.S. 20-16.5(p). A district court judge issues the privilege. Forrest is required to pay a $100 processing fee to the clerk upon its issuance. That’s the first item on Forrest’s bill.
1. $100 processing fee for pre-trial limited driving privilege (G.S. 20-20.2)
Then, at the end of the 30-day minimum revocation period, Forrest must pay $100 to end the civil license revocation.
2. $100 for return of license civilly revoked (G.S. 20-16.5(j))
Forrest hires an attorney to represent him in the impaired driving case. The attorney charges Forrest a flat fee of $1,000.
3. $1,000 in attorneys’ fees
Forrest pleads guilty in district court. He is sentenced at Level 5, placed on 12 months of supervised probation, and is ordered to pay a $100 fine, to perform 24 hours of community service and to obtain a substance abuse assessment and complete the recommended education or treatment.
Forrest now must add the following items to his mounting bill:4. $100 fine (G.S. 20-179(k) (permitting fine of up to $200 for Level 5 DWI))
5. $290 in court costs (This figure includes (i) the $190.00 standard costs amount for a Chapter 20 misdemeanor (G.S. 7A-304(a)(1) – (a)(4a), & (a)(9)) plus (ii) the $100.00 special costs amount for persons sentenced under G.S. 20-179 (G.S. 7A-304(a)(10))).
6. $480 in probation supervision fees (G.S. 15A-1343(c1) (establishing supervision fee of $40 per month))
8. a $100 fee to the agency that assesses his substance abuse problem (G.S. 122C-142.1(f))
9. $160 for the alcohol and drug treatment school ordered as a result of the assessment (G.S. 122C-142.1(f))
Forrest’s driver’s license is revoked for one year upon his conviction. G.S. 20-17(a)(2); G.S. 20-19(c1). He applies for a limited driving privilege at sentencing. Upon its issuance, he is required to pay $100.
10. $100 for post-conviction limited driving privilege (G.S. 20-20.2)
When the revocation year expires, Forrest will be required to pay $100 for the restoration of his driver’s license.
11. $100 license restoration fee (G.S. 20-7(i1))
Forrest’s bill now totals $2,780, but we haven’t taken into account one of his largest expenses—his increased automobile liability insurance. A DWI conviction results in 12 insurance points. That translates to a 340 percent increase in the cost of his coverage. If he paid $600 in annual insurance premiums before the DWI conviction, his premiums will now total $2,640.
11. $2,040 in increased insurance premiums
In total, Forrest’s DWI has cost him $4,820.
And his bill doesn’t include many of the substantial charges assessed in some impaired driving cases. Those include the $600.00 lab fee in G.S. 7A-304(a)(7) or (a)(8), the $600.00 lab analyst testimony fee in G.S. 7A-304(a)(11) and (a)(12), jail fees of $10 per day for pretrial confinement and $40 a day for imprisonment under a split sentence (G.S. 7A-313), and the costs of ignition interlock and continuous alcohol monitoring.
All this makes cab fare look pretty cheap.