For some, getting a traffic ticket is nothing more than a short-term inconvenience. However, for low-income individuals in Alabama and many other states, it can have a long-term impact on their lives. Those who are unable to pay a fine may be sent to jail, and these individuals may be required to pay a fee for each day that they are there. People can also be charged a supervision fee if they are put on probation.
These fees can be on top of the $500 or more needed to make bail. According to the Supreme Court, defendants cannot be forced to pay fines or fees if they don't have the means to do so. However, Tennessee law allows the state to suspend a person's license for failure to pay a fine. Many groups are working to reform the fine and bail system in an effort to provide relief to those who are struggling to pay their debts.
A representative from the Conference of Chief Justices said that the system can result in people losing their jobs and their families. A group called Vera Institute of Justice New Orleans is trying to convince the city to eliminate cash bail. It says that the city spends $5.4 million to incarcerate those who can't pay a fine or fee while it collects only $2.8 million annually.
Those who are facing drug possession, domestic violence or any other type of criminal charge may be ordered to pay a variety of fines or fees if convicted. An attorney may help an individual obtain a favorable outcome in a case, which could include a complete dismissal of the charges or an acquittal after a trial. This may result in an individual obtaining his or her freedom without financial or other conditions attached.