Bill would eliminate court fees for juveniles

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Some youth become involved with the juvenile justice system after they are accused of being delinquent or committing a criminal act. Other youth come into contact with the system as status offenses; actions that are illegal only because of a youth’s age, such as truancy, underage drinking or running away from home.

Once juveniles enter the justice system they are at a high risk of  incurring numerous fines and fees.

These fines and fees are widespread across the country; nearly every state imposes costs on children. But that could change in Florida.

House Bill 257, filed by Nicholas Duran, D-Miami, and Vance Aloupis, R-Miami, would eliminate court-related financial obligations for juveniles.

According to the bill text, it“Removes juveniles from numerous provisions relating to court fees; provides that fees and court-ordered costs previously ordered to be paid are unenforceable and uncollectible; provides for reinstatement of driver licenses suspended for failure to make specified payments.”

This could affect more than 1 million youth in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

Schools like Second Chance in Leon County, have students who are facing charges or are in some state of  legal litigation. Eliminating court fees will help those students be less stressed as far as the money aspect of the court fees.

Deontae Williams, 17, who attends Second Chance, said that he could focus more on bettering himself as a student and person if lawmakers were to pass HB 257.

“Rather than focusing on paying court fees, this gives me more time to focus on changing my behavior and making better decisions,” Williams said. “I would definitely be less stressed.”

Myia Johnson, a guidance counselor at Second Chance, said that HB 257 would be extremely helpful.

“At the age of 16 many youths are not necessarily able to maintain themselves financially,” Johnson said. “That money can be saved and used for future goals that youths may have.”

HB 257 will get rid of the responsibility of paying extra fees that heighten instability for families already in financial distress.

Tallahassee resident Samantha Steal commends lawmakers for considering a bill that would throw out fees that have previously caused financial hardship on her, being that she is a single mother.

“My son is actually a juvenile,” Steal said. “If this bill is passed, it can save me a ton of money that I don’t have.”

The last action taken on HB 257 was its first reading held on Jan. 11.