UPDATE: Contra Costa Supervisors Put Temporary Moratorium On Criminal Court Fees

September 18, 2019 10:05 am · 20 comments

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors placed an indefinite moratorium on county imposed fees and fines affecting defendants going through the criminal justice system in a legislative move Tuesday that advocates claim is likely to improve community safety by reducing recidivism.

The county authorizes the fees, but then it’s up to the bench to impose them, and to grant waivers for those who do not have the ability to pay. Public defenders say those waivers are not granted fairly and evenly from one courtroom to another, which Supervisor Karen Mitchoff argued was a matter for the bench. But advocates say the board still has sway over whether they get imposed in the first place.

The fees generate about $1.8 million per year, according to county staff, but that’s only a fraction of the total imposed. People going through the system are typically low income, and the fees imposed on them often go
unpaid.

Those financial debts to the county follow defendants around for years, limiting access to jobs and housing for ex-convicts and contributing to their odds of being incarcerated again.

Supervisors Candace Andersen and Mitchoff, who cast both dissenting votes when Board Chair John Gioia called the question, were vocal in their apprehensions about the proposal.

Mitchoff argued that this was a matter for the courts to wrestle with, and defendants can apply for a fee waiver. She also had concerns that taxpayers would have to make up for any revenue gap created by the moratorium, a prospect about which her constituents were enthusiastically opposed.

Andersen questioned the assertion that fines and fees imposed in Contra Costa County criminal courts affected low-income people and minorities. Specifically, she wanted county-specific ethnic and economic data about the affected defendants. She also had questions about how many affected individuals had applied for fee waivers from the court, and how many of those waivers had been granted.

Both dissenting supervisors blasted a lack of supporting data in the staff report prepared on the matter, and Mitchoff called it “woefully inadequate” in that regard — which is available online at
https://bit.ly/2kCEcPv — but subject matter experts stated during public comment that the data requested may not exist.

“I understand your wish for more data, but there is no magic database in the county that … can spit out the data you’re looking for,” said Rebecca Brown from Reentry Solutions Group, which advocates on issues
affecting the formerly incarcerated.

That information is not adequately tracked, according to Brown, though it could be in the future. Meanwhile, an inability to pay those fees often prevents people from getting off of probation or clearing their
records.

“It’s bad public policy,” Brown said. “The fact that bad public policy generates revenue is not sufficient.”

With regards to revenue generation, data available from other jurisdictions suggests that the vast majority of the fines and fees imposed are never collected from defendants.

“We found they were a really terrible source of revenue,” said Christa Brown, manager for the Treasurer and Tax Collector for the City and County of San Francisco. “We found the collection rate for the largest fee, the probation fee, was 9 percent… and that 90 percent of the fees went unpaid.”

After a lengthy and occasionally contentious debate, Supervisor Federal Glover made a motion to move forward with the moratorium, and Gioia seconded the motion — which passed with support from Supervisor Diane Burgis.

County staff has been directed to research the matter further, and to look into options for halting collections activity on old debts conducted by Linebarger Goggan Blair and Sampson, the court’s collection agency.

Clay Campbell September 18, 2019 at 10:17 AM

I’m delighted to see the Board of Supes are making criminality more affordable in our county. I seems like something the irresponsible liberals in SF would do.

Anonymous September 18, 2019 at 10:48 AM

Good for Mitchoff . The other three who passed this stupid thing are a bunch of loons. Did Federal pay his fees when he was convicted of DUI ?

SaltyPirate September 18, 2019 at 11:02 AM

RIDICULOUS. Discounts for criminals. Let the tax payer pay for it. Better yet, the VICTIM!

Too far left…

Salty OUT!!

Commonsensenor September 18, 2019 at 11:55 AM

Well this is going to be an easy 2020 win.

RANDOM TASK September 18, 2019 at 12:54 PM

its very simple

for those the oppressor’s are deemed worthy of not paying for their crime fees

its very simple …..since the board and councils are all dem and vote dem and bleed dem agenda …

form a task management system ….dems are good at that …

with the labor unions and have them work it off in public works clean up and or consturction skills advancement
so that when fees are due and said fee respondent non denominational and or gender affiliated carbon based fee payer can not pay ..they can work and learn a skill to oh I don’t know maybe better themselves rather than rip off the system by claiming non sufficient funds

if only the state would stop coddling and pandering to those who love to system suck and commit crimes ….this might and a very slight might become a nice place again but doubtful with king newscum running the court and slamming out lame duck bills one after the other to beat down the middle class in favor of criminals and illegals to pad the population political agenda of grabbing every bit of fed money through ill gotten means of using people as population numbers and that’s about it ….oh and leaving them to their means and abuse of middle class homeowners and their property and communities through legalized theft and the DA refusing to prosecute anyone fitting the dem agenda cronyism

5 tax increases and 3 bridge toll hikes in just 5 years just to fix a few main roads ….hmmm ….hard to support the 12 million illegals in low income housing and using road money and bridge money and school money as well

all the while stirring the pot on NO low income housing because of landlords lol

when over 8 million locations are filled with illegals of course the citizens wont be able to find anyplace to live ….

but wait the dems can give away land and taxes to builders and fill their pockets to fix the problem they created ….while again taxing the middle class to pay for everything

where are the cheers FROM the dem voters ….

YOU WON

The Fearless Spectator September 18, 2019 at 1:38 PM

This is absolutely criminal. Anyone who would support this is completely out of touch with reality, and obviously have never been personally affected by crime.

However if their goal is to piss off responsible citizens, then this is a real success.

SaltyPirate September 18, 2019 at 1:43 PM

Far left.. Already ruined our state. 100% agree on that so called governor. Loves getting his face on tv.

Bill Cutting September 18, 2019 at 1:56 PM

Dems are NPCs they believe Facebook and talk show hosts but can’t seem to look around and see reality. I like to play count the white ppl in the sun valley mall just to see demographic change at the local level. You’re completely right random there are probably 12 to 15,000,000 illegals living in our state. Trump ain’t doing anything about it. It’s a shame, unfortunately we need a real candidate that’s going to do some real changes like boot the illegal parasites to free up loads of money meant for citizens. Wake up call to conservatives the left and right are both the same. The conservative politicians conserved nothing! Our culture is being degenerated by the second look at MTV music in the 80s and look at it currently that’s just one example of how far we have fallen into degeneracy

Tsa September 18, 2019 at 2:29 PM

What’s $1.8 million, the taxpayers can pay that. At least 2 of the 5 Supervisors used their brains.

WC Resident September 18, 2019 at 2:43 PM

“The fees generate about $1.8 million per year, according to county staff, but that’s only a fraction of the total imposed.”

I suspect it has been costing the county much less than $1.8 million per year for the clerical staff that keeps track of the fees. Thus, even though they only collected $1.8 million of some unspecified much higher amount, it was still a revenue positive program.

If someone is unable to pay the fees I suspect there already was a system in place where they could plead their case and hope that they are reduced or waived.

Taxpayer September 18, 2019 at 2:49 PM

At least the supervisors represented their constituents! MCGA

BCollins September 18, 2019 at 2:53 PM

BURGIS cast the deciding vote. Always doing whatever Gioia wants. Thank you Mitchoff and Anderson. So now convicted criminals don’t have to pay their court fees – instead us taxpayers do! Remember, Burgis and Glover (who also voted yes on this ridiculous policy) are up for the next election!

Atticus Thraxx September 18, 2019 at 3:58 PM

I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other, but if exorbitant unpaid court fees are all that’s keeping cases open and people from getting traction again AND they’re not being paid pretty much across the board, what’s the point? Punitive? Recover costs? Blood from a rock? Or is it just another money sucking government agency attaching themselves like ticks to people with little blood to give. But again, I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other. 😉

Sick of it September 18, 2019 at 5:13 PM

Remember to vote out all Democrats in the next elections. As it’s heading now we will be fined soon for not being a criminal. Crime pays

Googlar September 18, 2019 at 7:04 PM

Can I get no traffic fees also

RSD September 18, 2019 at 7:23 PM

How about not breaking the law?? That’s the best way not to deal with court fees!! Come on people! Vote these idiots out of office. enough is enough.

Gittyup September 18, 2019 at 10:12 PM

My understanding is that Courts throughout California are woefully understaffed due to budget cuts. “Every little bit helps,” said the old woman as she … well you know.

Oh, please September 20, 2019 at 8:21 PM

Heaven forbid people are actually accountable. And we would never think to make them work it off, by by means. Just get rid of it. WE need some politicians to make CA great again. It has fallen a long, long way.

JayJ September 21, 2019 at 9:04 PM

“It was also discussed that these fees can be impoverishing in that large monetary sanctions translate to large levels of debt that reinforce poverty and make it difficult for individuals to lead financially stable lives. Criminal fees could potentially undermine public safety.”

J Duncan September 22, 2019 at 3:35 AM

I agree

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