- NC Policy Watch - http://www.ncpolicywatch.com -

Monday numbers: A closer look at the cost of excessive court debt

[1]The ACLU of North Carolina released a report [2] last week examining the true cost of excessive court debt to defendants. It documents hundreds of cases of people jailed over unpaid court debt, the collateral consequences of such debt, courtroom debt collection practices and legislative action that led to the current problem.

The report also highlights the numbers associated with the state’s modern-day debtor’s prison. Among the findings:

$106 — the cost of court fines and fees in 1999

$147.50 — today’s General Court of Justice fee in district court; it’s one of many fines and fees levied against defendants (the $106 figure from 1999 wouldn’t cover half of the fines and fees associated with a current typical traffic citation)

$263 million — how much money the North Carolina judicial branch remitted to the state’s general fund in fiscal year 2016-17

15 days — the amount of notice the state now has to give governmental entities entitled to court fines and fees to allow them to object to court debt waivers

87,006 — the number cases in which judges waived fines and fees in 2016 (compared to 889,714 cases in which defendants were ordered to pay fines and fees)

45,882 — the number cases in which judges waived fines and fees in 2017 (compared to 902,900 cases in which defendants were ordered to pay fines and fees)

28,036 — the number cases in which judges waived fines and fees in 2018 (compared to 848,375 cases in which defendants were ordered to pay fines and fees)

30 days — the amount of time a North Carolinian’s driver’s license can be suspended for failure to pay court fines and fees

$65 — the cost to restore a revoked license for failure to pay court debt

264,000 — the number of North Carolina licenses revoked for nonpayment of court debt as of May 2018

80-90% — of people charged with a crime in North Carolina the share who are are considered indigent

20.5 days — the average jail stay for someone arrested for failure to pay court debt

$1,158.66 — the amount counties spend on average to jail someone for an average outstanding court debt of $525.48 (excluding administrative costs for court hearings)

*Source: “At All Costs” report from the ACLU of NC — read the full report here. [3]