State Rep. Bronna Kahle has introduced a bipartisan plan to prohibit juvenile courts in Michigan from charging and collecting fines and fees from young offenders or their families.
Kahle, of Adrian, said fines and fees for youth are inefficient and inconsistently imposed, exacerbate poverty for families and disproportionately harm youth and families of color.
“Currently, Michigan juvenile courts are permitted, and sometimes required, to charge and collect fines and fees from youth regardless of their age. Because this is handled inconsistently from county to county, youth living in different parts of the state can have very different experiences with the justice system,” Kahle said. “These fees are significant and often burdensome, leaving some families facing total debts exceeding $100,000, which can result in families having their tax refunds intercepted and wages garnished as a result of their child’s debt.”
According to a 2020 analysis of State Court Administrative Office data, only 25 percent of the assessed juvenile court debt was actually collected between 2017 and 2019.
Specifically, the bills would eliminate:
- Diversion program costs for juveniles
- Court costs and attorney’s fees for juveniles
- Fees for court-ordered DNA assessment for juveniles
- Late fees for juveniles
- Liability for fees for both juveniles and their parents
Kahle said it’s important to note this plan does not eliminate restitution to crime victims or funds to the Crime Victim Compensation Program.
“The current system is clearly not effective and—sadly–often does more harm than good. This plan advances the bipartisan goal of furthering meaningful criminal justice reform, while respecting crime victims,” Kahle said. “This is an important step in eliminating these exorbitant fees that are holding people back and locking families into poverty for years.”
Nine states have already partially or fully eliminated juvenile court fines and fees, including California, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia and Washington. In Michigan, Macomb, Washtenaw and Wayne counties have eliminated discretionary fees and stopped debt collection.
House Bills 4987 – 4891 were referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
State Rep. Bronna Kahle, of Adrian, today joined the majority of her legislative colleagues in approving the Unlock Michigan citizens’ initiative, repealing the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act that Gov. Whitmer used to declare an extended state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic.