Waiving Fees & Fines for Juveniles: Recently Enacted Legislation

On August 24th Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation that would authorize judges to waive certain surcharges and fees for defendants who are under 21 years of age. This bill was supported by the City Bar’s Juvenile Justice Committee, Criminal Justice Operations Committee and the Mass Incarceration Task Force, who have argued that mandatory fines and fees impose a hefty burden on defendants across New York’s court system. These fines and fees are disproportionately shouldered by low-income people who come into disproportionate contact with the system, and who are least able to pay. The negative impacts are magnified in the case of youth defendants who largely lack direct access to monetary resources. Recidivism rates go up, reintegration becomes more difficult, and all the while additional fees accrue. Prior to this bill’s enactment, judges had no discretion to waive fees when sentencing youth. Now the court will be permitted to waive certain surcharges and fees when it is determined that the defendant is under 21 years of age and demonstrates either that the fee would impose an undue hardship, it prevents successful reintegration, or that the interests of justice require it. The law went into effect immediately.