As the saying goes, ‘crime doesn’t pay;’ however, and as far as the state is concerned, criminals do. Everyone knows that in many cases if a person is caught, charged, and convicted of a crime, they are facing jail time. If the offender is a minor, they are remanded to a juvenile justice facility for a given length of time. The thing that most people do not know is that the easiest part of a given punishment is the time behind bars, the hard part is the financial costs that come with breaking the law. The economic toll extends far beyond retaining the services of an attorney, and remember, if you cannot afford a lawyer, then one will be provided for you.
Depending on the offense, sentencing can include victim restitution; and more times than not, people released from jails and prisons go on probation for varying lengths of time, all of which costs money. It is no different for juveniles either, except for who is responsible for paying the bills. Of course, it is unrealistic to think that a 16-year old can pay their legal fees, it isn’t as if they have high-paying jobs. So, the bills fall on mothers and fathers who, in most cases, are on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.
The fees that the families of juvenile offenders are responsible for paying is a significant amount of money. According to The Crime Report, fees come from:
- Victim Restitution
- Baseline Fines
- Administrative Costs (i.e., probation, electronic monitoring, and public defenders)
High Pay and Low Gain
When a youth’s fines and fees are not paid, the debt is taken up by the tax franchise board which will garnish the money from parents’ paychecks, according to the article. Even still, Kate Weisburd, Director of the Youth Defender Clinic in California, says that counties end up paying in the long run. Recouping fines and fees from impoverished families ends up costing counties more than what offenders owe in the first place.
“[Counties] weren’t recouping much to begin with” said Weisburd, an alum of Brown University and Columbia Law School. “What happens is a family is billed $4,000 in administrative fees, and it would cost the county that much money to collect it. Processing costs so much and these poor families can’t afford to pay for it.”
The fact that adjustments need to come about isn’t lost on juvenile judges, according to the article. In fact, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges approved a resolution that would no longer require juveniles and their families to cover the legal costs. In California, a law went into effect this past January making it the first state to do away with fees for incarcerated youth. It may be more difficult in some states to enact such reforms; however, individual judges have the right to not levy fines and fees against minors.
Juvenile Defense Attorney
At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.