In New York, virtually any interaction with the legal system – from a simple speeding ticket to a serious criminal conviction – comes with fines and fees that on their own can lead to unjust incarceration and disrupt successful reentry for low income New Yorkers.
For example, when a traffic ticket — which can cost up to $600, far beyond the means of many New Yorkers – goes unpaid, it can lead to a driver’s license suspension. Then, a low-income New Yorker must choose between driving without a license (and risk a criminal conviction and jail time), or losing their job and in turn, possibly their home, healthcare, custody of children, and more.
Additionally, criminal convictions for violations, misdemeanors, and felonies require the payment of a mandatory court surcharge and additional fees depending on the precise charge. These costly fees, if left unpaid, can destroy an individual’s credit, making reentry from incarceration extremely difficult and jeopardizing housing stability and economic mobility for an entire family. New York must get money out of the justice system, reduce its reliance on fines and fees as punitive and revenue-generating mechanisms, and protect taxpayers from shouldering the social and economic costs that result.