Illinois Senate bill seeks to end court fines, fees for juveniles

(The Center Square) – Senate lawmakers in Springfield have passed legislation that could put an end to all court fines and fees for virtually all juvenile defendants.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, Senate Bill 1463 passed by a nearly 2-1 vote margin (37-19).

Parameters of the measure, which now sits in the House Rules Committee, also call for individuals under the age of 18 to still be required to pay restitution for such violations as traffic, boating, fishing or game law along with municipal ordinance violations.

With such fees and fines already outlawed in nearly half of all states, advocates argue such costs especially impact minority and lower-income families, with a recent Illinois Statutory Court Fee Task Force report coming to the conclusion the practice should be abolished, finding the assessments “undermine the goal of achieving rehabilitation.”

The report further outlines “in the juvenile court system, youths living in poverty may face harsher consequences than their more well-off peers since poor children are less likely to pay juvenile assessments, which may result in contempt of court, probation violations, recidivism, and even additional fees.”

With fines often as high as $800, Peters sought to pass such legislation before, though Senate Bill 3621 never advanced past a first reading in the chamber.

“One fee for someone who’s working class leads to a variety of different other economic challenges that could cause a debt cycle or debt spiral,” he said.

Republicans opposed to the measure openly expressed concerns about revenues, with state Sen. Jill Tracy taking to the House floor to openly wonder how her small Adams County home would be left to make up the $22,000 it issued in such fines as recently as last year.

“That is a significant amount that somehow that county and that entity of government through their taxpayers is going to have to make up,” she said.

In the end, all Senate Republicans voted to reject the measure, with the Illinois Sheriff’s Association taking a similar stance.

Peters’ bill comes at a time when some are pushing for youth detention centers to be shut down across the state and with Gov. J.B. Pritzker having recently moved to close at least five centers.

Peters’ bill also has a companion bill in the House, with state Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, having filed House Bill 3120, which has also since been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.


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April 5, 2023 at 03:20PM

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