Courts & the Law, News

Report: AOC to mail 615 monthly waivers to prepare for change in court fines, fees

A budget provision that will make it more difficult for judges to waive court fines and fees for indigent defendants goes into effect Dec. 1, but the Administrative Office of the Courts has found a way to lighten the load.

The provision mandates that no court may waive or remit all or part of any court fines or costs without providing 15 days’ notice and an opportunity to be heard to all government entities affected by the monetary collection. They duty would fall to local clerks, but the AOC plans to instead mail a standard letter to 615 entities once per month, according to a WRAL report.

“That letter will include the internet address of the state’s online courts calendar and tell officials that fees could be waived at any criminal hearing on the calendar,” the report states. “Local jurisdictions can send additional notices if they like, but the guidance doesn’t require that. It says they should work with local entities, particularly if they request different or more frequent notice.”

NC Policy Watch reported the consequences of the budget provision earlier this year when it was being considered by lawmakers. WRAL also included in its report some statistics about the impact the measure could have.

What remains unclear is whether GOP lawmakers will be satisfied by the AOC’s solution.

“It’s unclear whether the AOC’s plan will pass muster with GOP legislators who pushed for the notice requirement, which takes effect Dec. 1,” WRAL reports. “The proposal was a Senate priority, and Sen. Warren Daniel, who co-chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last week that the legislature’s legal staff has been asked to analyze the AOC’s plan.

‘We do want to make sure they’re complying with the spirit of the provision,’ said Daniel, R-Burke.”

You can read WRAL’s full report here.

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