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Fines and fees are bad business for Florida.

Juvenile fees trap young people and their families in lifelong debt.

Florida charges youth and their families a wide range of fees and costs for their involvement in the justice system, regardless of guilt or innocence. These costs include: court administration fees, medical care costs, public defender fees, probation supervision fees, the costs of detention, and surcharges.

The immense debt youth incur on account of these fees obliterates their future prospects while driving them, and their families, deeper into poverty. Young people who are in school and without employment have no means to pay these costs..

Young people who owe debts end up with higher recidivism rates, stay on probation longer, are unable to expunge their records, obtain driver’s licenses, participate in job corps programs, or enroll in the military because they are assessed fines and fees they cannot afford. The majority of those affected are young boys, many of whom come from poor families.

Why Florida Needs Reform

  • The impact of court debt lasts into adulthood and severely reduces successful outcomes: young people who owe court debts are pushed deeper into poverty, have higher recidivism rates, stay on probation longer, are unable to expunge court records, obtain driver’s licenses, or participate in job corps programs.
  • Revenue collected from fees is not worth the cost to families or the government. In 2019, only 11% of the $5.1 million dollars that was assessed against youth was collected – but the financial and emotional cost to families was enormous. Young people are either too young to work, unable to find work or are in school. Their parents are then forced to make an impossible choice: put food on the table or pay down court debt.
  • Foster youth in the delinquency system are particularly vulnerable to the harmful impacts of fees. Foster youth do not have financial support from their families or from the Department of Children and Families, which does not help children in its custody with their debt. Nearly 50% of foster children become homeless within 18 months of aging out of the system.

The Debt Free Justice for Children Act: HB257/SB428

The Debt Free Justice for Children Act (HB257/SB428) would eliminate all fees and costs currently imposed on all youth up to age 18 and their families and extend these protections for youth who qualify for extended foster care, up to age 21. The law would also vacate all outstanding fee orders, vacate the related debt, and reinstate driving privileges for those who lost them for failure to pay. Learn more using the resources below.

Resources

Debt Free Justice for Children Act — SB428 Full Bill Text/ HB257 Full Bill Text

Debt Free Justice for Children Act — Bill Summary and Explainer

Debt Free Justice for Children ActIssue and Reform Explainer

Debt Free Justice for Children ActFrequently Asked Questions

Campaign Supporters

The following people and organizations support ending juvenile fees in Florida.

American Children’s Campaign
ACLU of Florida
Americans for Prosperity – Florida
Anquan Boldin
Aveion Cason
Catalyst Miami
Chainless Change
Debt Free Justice Campaign
The Dream Foundation
Florida Justice Institute
Florida Juvenile Justice Association
Florida Policy institute
Florida Rising
Florida Student Power Network
HOPE Public Interest Resource Center
The Institute for Justice
James Madison Institute
Juvenile Law Center
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Law Offices of the Public Defender, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida
Law Offices of the State Attorney, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida
No Place for a Child Campaign
Players Coalition
R Street Institute
Social Justice Advocacy Program at Stetson University College of Law
Southern Legal Counsel
SPLC Action Fund
Tampa Bay Rays

Help us eliminate juvenile fees in Florida.

The movement to end juvenile fees is gaining momentum across the nation. In 2021 alone, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Louisiana and California have all passed reforms to stop punishing young people and families with juvenile fees.

Do you or your organization want to be part of Florida’s efforts to reform juvenile fees? Get in touch >

Current fines and fees laws stop people from working, driving and paying debt.

If you can’t afford to make a fine or fee payment, Florida takes your license and, with it, your freedom to drive and work. Losing your license makes everyday tasks like caring for your children or buying groceries nearly impossible. These needless license suspensions also cause businesses to lose employees that can no longer drive themselves to work. Read the stories below to understand the real impact of license suspensions:

The vast majority of suspensions are not for dangerous driving. See your county’s suspension data >

It’s time for Florida to join the dozens of other states in ending license suspensions for unpaid court fines and fees. Are you or your organization ready to be part of the movement to end this counterproductive practice? Our current supporter network includes 50+ organizations. Use this form to submit your interest in joining the Driving Success Campaign >

Resources for Advocates

Florida’s Fines and Fees Issue Explainer 2021

Driving on Empty: Florida’s Counterproductive and Costly Driver’s License Suspension Practices

Suspended in the Sunshine State: Interactive Maps Showing Florida’s Driver’s License Suspensions Across Counties

Contact us

For all other inquiries or to get in touch with our Florida team, please use the contact form here.

 

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