Florida: “Amendment 4 requires addressing the criminalization of poverty”

Michael Morse oped:

The Republican-dominated Legislature has tried to hang Amendment 4 by its own advocate’s words. When the campaign went before the state supreme court to qualify for the ballot, it explained to the seven justices that “completion of sentence” meant that the payment of fines and fees were also required to vote. The campaign has since called that concession a mistake. Regardless, the amendment’s general language offers a cautionary tale about how the many metastasizing consequences of the carceral state can complicate well-intentioned efforts at reform.

Although a fragmented criminal justice system has made data collection difficult, my previous research using court records in Alabama found that the typical ex-felon faced a staggering bill of about $4,000 in fines and fees. Perhaps recognizing the potential impact, the ACLU of Florida, which helped draft Amendment 4, has tried to offer a saving construction to the legislature. They have suggested that “fees not specifically identified as part of a sentence . . . are therefore not necessary for ‘completion of sentence’ and thus, do not need to be paid before an individual may register.”

This would likely help address some onerous and unnecessary fees, such as those collected as part of a court payment plan. But the problem is much deeper, because the legislature has enacted a litany of statutory fees that are mandatorily imposed by the judge at sentencing, such as $100 for the “cost of prosecution,” $50 for a “public defender application fee,” $225 for “additional court costs,” and at least $100 more for various “crime prevention,” “crime compensation,” and “crime stoppers” funds.

See also this thread:


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