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The Justice System: Debt Means Jail Time

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2012 | The Justice System |

Financial debt to the justice system not only impacts your credit, but now it can lead to jail time. Michigan cities and towns are now turning to what is commonly known as user fees. These fees, unlike fines that are meant to punish, are intended to raise revenue for cities and towns. The problem arises when individuals who are responsible for a simple traffic offense cannot pay and are burdened with late fees, interest, and other charges that result in suspended licenses and damaged credit. Now, not only does the individual need to come up with more money, but they have lost their ability to drive their vehicle to a job or find housing due to bad credit.

In Michigan, many jurisdictions in the justice system revoke probation or hold a contempt of court hearing if a convicted person fails to pay a debt. Every stage of a criminal proceeding is potentially littered with fees ranging from jail fees for pretrial incarceration to court administrative costs and even mandatory fees imposed by the court for rehabilitation classes, therapy, and class fees. When an individual cannot pay these fees, they end up in jail, sometimes for a crime that would otherwise not involve any jail time if convicted.

This becomes especially problematic for persons with very limited financial resources. In Kent County, for example, courts impose a charge of $700 upon an indigent to pay for a court-appointed attorney. The only way the debt is waived is if the indigent is sentenced to jail. Being required to pay these costs deters individuals charged with a crime from seeking the assistance of counsel. Without counsel, innocent individuals cannot adequately defend themselves in court. Then, when the individual is convicted, they are hit with more fees because they were convicted. The cycle makes it more and more difficult for the individual to get out of debt and stay out of jail.

It is amazingly important to have a trusted Michigan criminal defense attorney on your side. Sometimes, a case as simple as a traffic ticket can spiral into jail time. Don’t let this happen to you. No matter what criminal charges you might be facing, it is always in your best interests to have you case evaluated by an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney.