Resource: DOJ Dear Colleague Letter to Courts Regarding Fines and Fees for Youth and Adults

By: U.S. Department of Justice

April 20, 2023

The DOJ issued a Dear Colleague letter for state and local courts and juvenile justice agencies regarding the imposition and enforcement of fines and fees for adults and youth. The letter highlights a number of key issues regarding fines and fees, such as the importance of conducting a meaningful ability-to-pay assessment before imposing adverse consequences for failure to pay, considering alternatives to fines and fees, guarding against excessive penalties and ensuring due process protections, including the assistance of counsel when appropriate. The letter reminds court systems and other federal financial assistance recipients of their ongoing obligations not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex and disability; to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency; and to ensure that appropriate recordkeeping can help identify and avoid potential violations of federal nondiscrimination laws.