The Solution

“... 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

DE House Bill 244:

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:

 

    • Will cease suspension of driver’s licenses for reasons unrelated to driving and restore licenses to those who were affected by the previous system without additional restoration fees.
    • Will get rid of fines and fees for children for criminal cases other than motor-vehicle cases.
    • Will get rid of particularly problematic fees for using a public defender, for probation, for cancelling an arrest warrant, or for using a kiosk or internet payment system.
    • Will require municipalities, law enforcement agencies, and the courts to track and disclose certain aspects of their fines and fees system.
    • Will create a study group to work toward further reform.

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.

 

Read the bill and see its current status in the General Assembly.

 

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

Friendship House

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

Network Delaware

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 Alliance

Wilmington Community Advisory Council

 

 

 

Current Legislative Goals:

                          • End the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay fines and fees.

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.

 

                  • Eliminate all fines and fees for children.

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.

 

 

 

Success in Other States:

                          • Phoenix, Ariz., started a program in 2016 that offered those with suspended driver's licenses immediate reinstatement. Fifty-three percent of people with reinstated driver’s licenses found employment as a result of reinstatement, and over 40% reported an increase in income. Between January and September, the program added 1,904 job years of employment, $87 million in labor income and $149.6 million in GDP.

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