Criminal Justice Fines and Fees
There is wide recognition that today’s system of assessing criminal fines and fees is overly complex, and the financial and legal implications are often crippling for those who can least afford them. Thus, the Legislature has attempted and been successful at eliminating fines and fees counties are authorized to impose. However, for decades the Legislature has funded a wide array of criminal justice programs using fine and fee revenue, which counties rely on to sustain critical services and programs that benefit local communities.
Over the past few years, CSAC along with other county partners engaged with the Legislature, stakeholder groups and the administration to ensure that essential programs would still be funded if specified criminal fines and fees were eliminated. Measures from the last two legislative sessions include SB 144 (Mitchell, 2019/20)/AB 1869 (Budget, 2019/20) and SB 586 (Bradford, 2020/21)/AB 177 (Budget, 2020/21).
As a result of county efforts, although 40 criminal fees were eliminated over the previous two legislative sessions, sixty-five million dollars ($65,000,000) was appropriated beginning in the 2021–22 fiscal year continuing through the 2025–26 fiscal year to backfill revenues lost from the repeal of fees specified in AB 1869 (2020). Further, twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) backfill was appropriated in 2021-22 fiscal year for fees repealed by AB 177 (2021), in which the backfill will increase to fifty million dollars ($50 million) in 2022-23 and ongoing.
CSAC will continue to advocate for sustainable backfill funding to counties through the state budget and with future legislation to prevent shifted fiscal burdens for core programs and services to counties and community members.