Fines and Fees
When a defendant is sentenced on a Los Angeles felony or misdemeanor offense, a fine is almost always included as a condition of probation. In addition to the base fine amount, the defendant will be required to pay fees and penalty assessments. This may result in a total amount that is four or five times higher than the base fine. Failure to pay a court fine can lead to a probation violation and potentially jail time. People who have been charged with a criminal offense often want to know how much they may ultimately be required to pay.
In Los Angeles, defendants who are required to pay fines as part of their penalties will often have fees and penalty assessments added to the base amount. The rationale for these penalty assessments is based on the idea that criminal defendants should pay an “abusers fee” to help finance programming relating to deterring and decreasing criminal offenses. These penalty assessments are used to fund a wide variety of state-sponsored programs.
In many cases, part of the defendant’s fine will go to the State Victim Restitution Fund. This fund was established to pay for certain expenses incurred by the victims of violent crime, such as counseling or funeral expenses. The State Victim Restitution Fund contribution is not the same as victim restitution that the defendant may be ordered to pay. When there is a victim who suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s conduct, that victim is legally entitled to restitution and the defendant would be ordered to pay restitution to the victim as a condition of probation. This restitution requirement is separate from any fine payment obligation. A willful failure to pay restitution can result in a probation violation and even jail time. If the defendant is unable to fully pay off restitution during the period of probation, the judge may extend the probation period or may convert the restitution amount to a civil judgement that would attach to the defendant until it is paid in full.
Because of the various fees and penalty assessments that are added to the base fine, the total amount owed can often be four to five times higher than the base fine. For example, most defendants who are convicted of a first-time DUI offense are ordered to pay a minimum fine of $390. When penalty assessments are added, the total amount is closer to $2000.
Courts are aware that defendants may have trouble paying this amount and will often give the defendant enough time to pay the fine in full. Although the court may not offer a payment plan per se, the defendant can come to the court before the due date and make periodic payments until the total amount owed has been paid in full. The sentencing judge may also allow the defendant to complete community labor or serve extra days in jail in lieu of paying a fine.
The defendant would be given a due date to complete the community labor or surrender for jail. Failure to pay fines or complete the labor/jail may be considered a violation of probation. Because the court will usually offer payment alternatives such as community labor or jail, the defendant would not be able to avoid paying court fines by claiming that he or she had an inability to pay. In many cases, the judge will ask the defendant at the time of sentencing if he or she wants to pay the fine or complete jail time or community labor instead. If the defendant chooses the fine and later determines that he or she cannot afford to pay, the court may modify the defendant’s sentence to permit community labor or jail time. In Los Angeles County, fines can be paid by credit card which is a popular option for those who cannot pay the fine amount in full by the date that payment is due.
If you have been charged criminally and want to know about the amount of fines that may be owed, it is critical that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut possesses a comprehensive knowledge of the law and fights hard on behalf of his clients.
For more information about Los Angeles fines and fees, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.