Currently, California law permits counties to charge people administrative fees for diversion programs, drug and alcohol testing, civil assessments, record sealing, and even a fee for being put on a payment plan.
These fees can quickly add up to thousands of dollars for a single person and pose significant barriers to reentry. Unpaid fees can be enforced via wage garnishment, bank levy, and tax refund intercept. People who cannot afford traffic fees can lose their licenses for not appearing in court or not paying and can be arrested for driving on a suspended license.
Last session, the Governor signed Assembly Bill 1869 which abolishes 23 administrative fees in the criminal system effective July 1, 2021. Senate Bill 177 by Senator Steve Bradford would build on that work by eliminating the over 60 fees that can still be charged to millions of Californians shuffled through our criminal system each year.
AB 177 (Bradford) builds on years of organizing, advocacy, and research by Debt Free Justice California. Research by the coalition has shown that imposing fees on people in the criminal system is racist in practice, leaves many with insurmountable debt, and is ultimately low gain because counties net little, if any, revenue from these fees. Due to over-policing and racial bias throughout the system, the burden of these fees falls disproportionately on Black and Latinx communities.
California has found itself with billions in budget surplus, local governments should not be propping up their budgets on the backs of people of color who are struggling to make ends meet. AB 177 would eliminate the remaining system fees, providing much needed relief to our families.
Anti-Recidivism Coalition, ACLU California Action, East Bay Community Law Center, Homeboy Industries, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children/ All of Us or None, Legal Services of Northern California, PolicyLink, San Francisco Financial Justice Project, San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Youth Justice Coalition – Los Angeles
Note: This bill was previously SB 586.