When a juvenile cannot pay court fees in Florida, they may face added punishments to their existing charges. This can have negative consequences for their future and their families. If the goal is to turn delinquent youths into law-abiding adults, some may view punishments for non-payment of fees as unfair and harmful.
Court fees in juvenile court
Court fees are the costs that the court imposes on juveniles and their families due to their involvement in the juvenile justice system. These fees can be substantial and, if unpaid, may lead to additional punishments such as:
- Extended probation
- Loss of driver’s license
- Negative effects their credit score, ability to obtain loans or eligibility for public benefits
- Contempt of court
This could create a cycle of debt and punishment that pushes juveniles further into the justice system.
Their future is on the line
Punishing kids and their families for not paying court fees could be seen as disproportionate, especially for those already struggling financially. These fees could conflict with the juvenile system’s goal of helping kids improve. As stated by the Juvenile Law Center, when courts make young people pay court fees, they are more likely to get in trouble with the law again. Meaning these fees could create a difficult cycle for juveniles. Struggling to pay these fees might lead them to make choices out of desperation, potentially resulting in more criminal behavior. Even though fines usually do not exceed $200, they can be significant for those already financially strained.
Still, there’s good news: more and more judges are realizing these problems and working to change the system. These cases give hope for a fairer way to help juveniles instead of just punishing them.