Defendants who plead or are found guilty of traffic violations and other misdemeanors are typically assessed court fees and fines under Gov. Code, § 70373, Pen. Code, § 1465.8, and Pen. Code, § 1202.4, Unpaid fines usually go to collections without further order of the court.
Courts must determine a defendant’s ability to pay fees and assessment.
The Court of Appeal ruled in People v Dueñas (285645) that when poverty is the only reason a defendant cannot pay court fee and fines, using the criminal process to collect them is unconstitutional. Its decision bars courts from imposing court fees and assessments without determining a defendant’s present ability to pay. Despite Pen. Code, § 1202.4, precluding consideration of a defendant’s ability to pay unless the judge is considering increasing the fee over the statutory minimum, the execution of any restitution fine imposed under must be stayed unless and until the trial court holds an ability to pay hearing and concludes that the defendant has the present ability to pay the restitution fine