What Happens if I Can’t Pay My Criminal Court Fines and Fees? (And Why You Need a Private Criminal Defense Lawyer)

Being charged with a crime isn’t just unnerving; it’s expensive. To be sure, in addition to paying any fines and penalties that are associated with your crime (as well as processing fees), you may also incur other legal expenses, such as lawyers’ and court fees.

While many people are able to pay their fines and fees without problem, many are not. Indeed, the indigent often are left wondering how they will possibly pay for something as small as a traffic ticket, let alone a more expensive penalty for a more serious crime. Our Boston criminal defense lawyer can assist you in understanding what happens if you can’t pay your criminal court fines and fees, and finding a solution.

Don’t Settle for a Public Defender

While you may be tempted to retain the counsel of a public defender to help offset the costs of your legal fees, most public defenders are overworked, being tasked with handling multiple cases at once. In fact, nationwide, public defenders say that they’re overworked and underfunded. This means that if you are facing serious criminal charges, you should think twice about working with a public defender; you may be able to secure a better case outcome by partnering with a highly skilled private criminal defense lawyer.

What Happens When You Can’t Pay Your Criminal Fees

A recent article published in The New York Times explains “How Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor,” providing examples of cases where those who cannot pay their criminal fees spend time in jail instead, and how criminal justice debt owed by poor defendants likely totals tens of billions of dollars. The problem is nationwide, and Boston is no exception.

In fact, an article in 2016 published at wbur.org details how Massachusetts courts have sent people to jail when they cannot pay their criminal fees, with each night in jail leading to a deduction from the fee. (For example, if a person owed $100, each night might be worth $25, meaning they would need to spend four nights in jail in order to ‘pay’ the fine.)

How Working with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You to Understand Your Options

Fortunately, jail may not be the only option. If you know that you cannot pay your court fines and fees, it’s recommended that you inform the court of your situation sooner rather than later; courts appreciate a heads up, and may be willing to work with you to create a repayment plan. When you go before the court, present actual evidence of your financial hardship, such as a bank account statement or proof that you are unemployed. Usually, a court will be more interested in finding out how it can get the money from you rather than putting you in jail.

Your attorney can help you to understand the various options you face, as well as consequences that may be levied against you if you don’t pay fines.

Get Counsel and Legal Advice

The worst thing that you can do if you know that you cannot pay your court fines and fees is to do nothing at all; if you simply default on your payments, the consequences may be more severe, and you may even incur additional fines as a result. If you have questions about how to pay your fines, talk to a lawyer. At The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski, our Boston criminal defense attorney is ready to serve you. Reach him directly at 978-397-0011 or send our law firm a message telling us more about your case today.