Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Minnesota Legislature

Judges might be able to reduce court costs for low-income people

Showing “undue hardship” to a judge may be able to lower a person’s court costs.

Under current law anyone appearing in criminal or traffic court must pay a $75 surcharge to the court, unless the case is for a parking violation, which has a $12 surcharge. These surcharges are mandatory, and judges cannot waive them.

HF1060 would require judges to consider a defendant’s ability to pay surcharges, including the hardship that paying a fee or surcharge would place on the person’s immediate family. The bill would also allow judges to impose community work service in lieu of the surcharge.

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division approved the bill Thursday and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee. There is no Senate companion.

Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), sponsor of the bill, testified that more than 50 percent of the time, low-income people fail to pay the surcharges, resulting in extra cost and extra time for the court to try to collect them.

“Right-sizing these fines will lead to a lower default rate, fewer collection cases, and may even increase collection rates,” he said.

The bill includes six factors a court must consider when determining a defendant’s ability to pay:

  • income;
  • dependents;
  • financial resources;
  • basic living expenses;
  • receipt of a means-tested public assistance program; and
  • any special circumstances that may have bearing.


Related Articles

Priority Dailies

Socially distant but emotionally resonant — retirement speeches highlight friendships, look to future
Monday afternoon marked the end of the 2020 regular legislative session, and the retirements of more than a dozen representatives, who thanked family, House staff, mentors, and friends – especially those in the Legislature.
State of the State: Walz urges Minnesotans to stick together during troubling time
During his annual State of the State address Sunday evening, Walz warned that darker days lie ahead as Minnesotans brave the COVID-19 virus that’s reached across the world and currently has North America in its grip.

Minnesota House on Twitter