People v. Barajas, 2018 IL App (3d) 160433 (November)
People v. Garza, 2018 IL App (3d) 160684 (November). Episode 562 (Duration 20:33)
Helpful links and an update on important fines & costs cases.
- Episode 511 – People v. Vara, 2018 IL 121823 (June) (appellate courts don’t have jurisdiction to fix improper fines imposed by the circuit clerk)
- People v. Harvey, 2018 IL 122325 (September) (appropriate for the appellate court to review the fines and costs assessed by the court)
- People v. Young, 2018 IL 122598 (September) (inappropriate for the appellate court to review the fines and costs illegally mandated by the clerk’s office without a court order)
- More Illinois Sentencing Issues
People v. Barajas
The State charged defendant with operating an uninsured motor vehicle (625 ILCS 5/3-707 (West 2002)). Defendant pled guilty to the offense. The court sentenced defendant to pay $650 in fines.
Later, the State charged defendant with operating a motor vehicle when his registration was suspended for lack of insurance. An ex parte judgment was entered due to defendant’s failure to appear. The court found defendant guilty of the charged offense and sentenced defendant to pay $1000 in fines.
In a third offense, the State charged defendant with operating an uninsured motor vehicle. The court entered another an ex parte judgment. The court found defendant guilty of the charged offense and sentenced defendant to pay $501 in fines.
Motion To Vacate
Defendant filed a motion for revocation of all these various fines in the three cases.
Defendant alleged that he was unable to pay the fines imposed in these cases because he was then serving a five-year prison sentence on an unrelated charge and earned only $10 per month.
Good Cause He Couldn’t Pay
Defendant said that he would be released on mandatory supervised release 11 months from the date of the motion. Defendant alleged the following “good cause” for his inability to pay his fines:
“1. [Defendant] must find housing to parole to. 2. [Defendant] must find employment as an ex-offender. 3. [Defendant] may have to attend programs for rehabilitation possibly recomended [sic] by the Prisoner Review Board, and pay fees for attendance. 4. [Defendant] has no family with the financial means to assist him upon release.”
Defendant filed with his motion an affidavit of finances and property.
Defendant attested that he
(1) earns an income of $10 per month while incarcerated;
(2) owns no property;
(3) must find housing upon his release from prison to comply with the terms of his mandatory supervised release;
(4) has no employment awaiting him upon release and has no income or other funds available;
(5) will need to find employment as an ex-offender;
(6) has no insurance, equities, real estate, annuities or inheritance; and
(7) has no family with financial means to assist him upon release from the Department of Corrections.
He Paid Some In One
In case No. 02-TR-10880, defendant paid $894 of the combined fines and fees balance of $926.
The court ruled that defendant had shown good cause to revoke the $32 balance of his fines.
He Paid Nothing In The Others
With regard to case Nos. 02-TR-19427 and 02-TR-19429, the court denied defendant’s motion.
The court explained that “although the defendant has shown that that [sic] he is currently unable to pay said fines, he has not shown good cause for why over the period of the last 14 years or so *** very little has been paid on these cases.”
Defendant filed a notice of appeal in case Nos. 02-TR-10880, 02-TR19427, and 02-TR-19429. Defendant argues that the court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to revoke fines in case Nos. 02-TR-19427 and 02-TR-19429.
Defendant does not contest the court’s ruling in case No. 02-TR-10880 in this appeal.
The Code On Non Payment For Good Cause Shown
Section 5-9-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) provides,
“the court, upon good cause shown, may revoke the fine or the unpaid portion or may modify the method of payment.”
Good Cause Shown For Non Payment
The “upon good cause shown” standard is ambiguous.
In an attempt to define this standard, we reviewed the legislative history of Public Act 77-2097, which enacted section 5-9-2, and Public Act 87-396, which amended this section. See Pub. Act 77-2097, § 5-9-2 (eff. Jan. 1, 1973) (adding 730 ILCS 5/5-9-2); Pub. Act 87-396, § 1 (eff. Jan. 1, 1992) (amending 730 ILCS 5/5-9-2).
The record of the legislative proceedings on both of these acts provided no clarification of the good cause standard.
In the absence of legislative history, we look to the council commentary in the annotated statute for guidance. The council commentary establishes that a showing of good cause is tantamount to showing an inability to pay or a hardship that prevents a defendant from paying his fines.
Consistent with the council commentary, the Fourth District has observed that a court need not consider a defendant’s ability to pay at the time it imposes fines because “safeguards exist for those who in good faith are unable to pay a fine.” People v. Ruff, 115 Ill. App. 3d 691, 695 (1983). Those safeguards include the fine revocation provisions of section 5-9 2.
Therefore, to warrant revocation of a defendant’s fines, defendant must establish “good cause,” which is an “inability to pay” or a “hardship” that prevents him from paying the fines imposed by the court.
See 730 ILCS Ann. 5/5-9-2, Council Comments-1973, at 303 (Smith-Hurd 2007).
Upon review of the record, we find that the circuit court applied the incorrect standard when it ruled on defendant’s motion to revoke fines as the statutory good cause standard considers only defendant’s inability to pay or hardship and not the amount of fines paid.
In making this finding, the court erroneously expanded the good cause standard beyond inability to pay or hardship to include prior diligence as shown by the portion of the fines he had or had not previously paid. This was an abuse of its discretion.
Therefore, we vacate the court’s order revoking fines in case No. 02-TR-10880 and denying defendant’s motion as to case Nos. 02-TR-19427, and 02-TR-19429. We remand the cause with directions for the court to consider only defendant’s allegations and evidence of inability to pay or hardship to determine if he has established good cause to revoke his fines.
People v. Garza
This Was A Plea
Defendant plead guilty an agreed to pay a $3000 substance abuse assessment, a $100 laboratory analysis assessment, and a $500 street value fine. The court awarded defendant $520 in sentencing credit toward defendant’s fines, which completely offsets the street value fine.
Motion To Not Pay Fines
Subsequently, defendant filed a motion to quash court costs and fines pursuant to section 5-9-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-9-2). Defendant’s motion sought to revoke his assessments on the basis that he lacked sufficient income and resources to pay his outstanding court costs.
The circuit court denied defendant’s motion, finding that it lacked jurisdiction and that the motion was untimely.
Defendant appeals the denial of his motion to quash his fines & costs.
Here, defendant’s motion sought to revoke or reduce the amount owed for three assessments the circuit court imposed at sentencing pursuant to section 5-9-2 of the Code.
The Laboratory Assessment
First, defendant sought to revoke the laboratory analysis assessment.
The laboratory analysis assessment is not a fine. It is a fee, which is not subject to revocation pursuant to section 5-9-2 of the Code. See People v. Littlejohn, 338 Ill. App. 3d 281, 283 (2003).
The Substance Abuse Assessment
Second, defendant sought to revoke the substance abuse assessment.
The substance abuse assessment is a fine. However, this assessment is not subject to revocation pursuant to section 5 9-2. Instead, there are two separate statutory provisions available to a defendant seeking to reduce the balance of the substance abuse assessment.
Either a defendant “may petition the court to convert all or part of the assessment into court-approved public or community service,” or “[t]he court may suspend the collection of the assessment” if a “defendant agrees to enter a [court approved] substance abuse intervention or treatment program” (so long as defendant agrees to pay for some or all of the costs associated with treatment or intervention).
Defendant here did not petition the court to convert the substance abuse assessment into an approved public service or seek to complete an approved substance abuse intervention or treatment program. Rather, defendant sought to revoke his fines on the basis that he lacked sufficient income and resources to pay the outstanding court costs.
Defendant’s ability to pay this assessment is not an enumerated factor for the circuit court to consider when determining to reduce or revoke this particular fine.
Because defendant failed to include a request pursuant to these statutory sections in his motion, this argument is not properly before this court.
The Street Value Fine
Lastly, defendant sought to revoke the street value fine. This fine is subject to revocation pursuant to section 5-9-2 of the Code. However, this fine was completely offset by the presentence custody credit defendant received. See 725 ILCS 5/110-14(a).
Therefore, remand for a hearing on the revocation of this fine is unnecessary. Consequently, we conclude that the circuit court did not err when it denied defendant’s motion to quash court costs and fines.
Specifically, we find that although the court’s reasoning was incorrect, the denial of defendant’s revocation motion was proper because the assessments defendant sought to revoke were either not subject to revocation or completely offset by the presentence custody credit. The judgment of the circuit court of La Salle County is affirmed.
The Cases With The Fines & Costs Chart
- People v. Williams, 2013 IL App (4th) 120313 (June)
- People v. Johnson, 2015 IL App (3d) 140364 (December)
- Episode 636 – People v. Ross, 2019 IL App (3d) 170028 (May) (How to get a little money back for your client if they don’t finish the probation)
- People v. Clark, 2018 IL 122495 (December) (2019 will see a new fines and fees law take effect, Supreme Court stuck it to this guy right before the law change.)
- Fines 730 ILCS 5/5-9-1
- Undue Hardship 730 ILCS 5/5-9-2
- People v. Contursi, 2019 IL App (1st) 162894 (February) (Court must take into account the future ability to pay when assessing an appropriate felony fine.)
- $5 Credit 725 ILCS 5/110-14(a)
- Substance Abuse Assessments 720 ILCS 570/411.2
The Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act
On August 20, 2018, the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act was enacted into law. Pub. Act 100-987 (eff. July 1, 2019). It repeals the charge-imposing statutes at issue in this case. Id. §§ 905-43, 905-57. It specifically incorporates the $2 Public Defender Records Automation Fund charge, the $2 State’s Attorney Records Automation Fund charge, the $15 court automation charge, and the $15 Court Document Storage Fund charge as assessments subject to any presentence credit remaining after it has been applied to fines. Id. § 5-20(a). Except for certain inapplicable portions, the act takes effect July 1, 2019. The act is not retroactive.
The Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act began with the legislature’s creation of the Statutory Court Fee Task Force in the Access to Justice Act. 705 ILCS 95/25 (West 2014). This task force was composed of members representing all three branches of Illinois government. Id. The task force was instructed to study the various fees imposed on criminal defendants and civil litigants and to submit a report of findings and recommendations to this court and the General Assembly. Id. In response to that report, the General Assembly enacted the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act, which consolidated the assessment of criminal and traffic fines and fees in this state and explicitly stated how the presentence incarceration credit applies. Pub. Act 100-987 (eff. July 1, 2019)