“... the overreliance on fines and fees for government revenue creates powerful incentives to impose excessive financial penalties, with disastrous consequences on people who cannot pay... perpetuating cycles of debt, instability, and criminal legal system involvement that hurts families and the public at large.”
American Civil Liberties Union
The Campaign’s current focus is passage and funding of the bill by the Delaware General Assembly. This bill makes meaningful changes to Delaware’s court-imposed fines and fees:
Introduced in June 2021, HB244 was successfully voted out of the House Judiciary Committee on June 15, 2021. Referred to the House Appropriations Committee for funding.
Publicly supported by Delaware Courts, the Attorney General’s Office, Office of Defense Services, the Delaware Department of Transportation, and the following community groups:
ACLU of Delaware
Building People Power Campaign
Campaign for Smart Justice
Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow
Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.
Delaware Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Delaware Center for Justice
Delaware Coalition for Open Government
Delaware Poor People’s Campaign
Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative
Delaware Working Families Party
Human Rights Tank Force of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Wilmington, DE
IMA of Dover & Vicinity
League of Women Voters of Delaware
Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League
Newark DE NAACP
Office of Defense Services, State of Delaware
Peace By Piece Inc.
Progressive Democrats for Delaware
Project New Start, Inc.
Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice
Unitarian Universalist Delaware Advocacy Network
Westminster Peace & Justice Group
Wilmington Community Advisory Council
By suspending licenses for unpaid fines and fees, the state endangers access to jobs. Asking whether an applicant has reliable transportation is a question on job applications. Some jobs even more specifically ask if the candidate has a car/license. In addition to making it more difficult to enter the job market, license suspensions cause many working people to lose the jobs that they already have.
In neighboring New Jersey, “a task force ... found that following a license suspension, 42% of people lost their jobs as a result of the suspension. Of those who lost their jobs, 45% could not find another job, and this effect was most pronounced for seniors and low-income people. Of those who were able to find new employment, 88% reported decreased wages.”
This is a lose-lose situation for both debtors and the state. Without employment, residents are less able to pay off court debt, contribute less to the Delaware tax base and local economy, and families are forced to rely more on government assistance.
Many youth simply have no reasonable means for paying court fines and fees. Imposing a financial penalty, in fact, undermines the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile justice system. Pressure to seek long work hours is associated with lower grades and higher dropout rates, which are precisely the outcomes that the system should be looking to avoid.
The minimal revenue generated through collection of court debt from minors is insignificant to the overall budget of the courts – it is only significant to those individuals who are harmed by it.
Find out how you can take action with our campaign!