Monday, January 30, 2012
Michael L. Vander Giessen has posted Legislative Reforms for Washington State's Criminal Monetary Penalties (Gonzaga Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 2, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Balancing the present racial and ethnic disparities in Washington’s criminal justice system requires state legislators to carefully assess contributing factors and seriously consider sentencing reforms. One contributing factor can be found in the State’s laws governing criminal monetary penalties, known as legal financial obligations (“LFOs”). Many have criticized LFOs as creating de facto debtors’ prisons that disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities. These critics have also identified potential reforms but offered little practical guidance on how to implement them in Washington. As a complement to their work, this comment offers a discussion draft of proposed legislation. Specifically, this comment proposes that the Washington State Legislature alleviate the negative effects of LFOs by enacting legislation with four results: first, structuring the amount of nonrestitution LFOs to reflect the seriousness of the offense and the offender’s ability to pay; second, repealing the interest accrual on nonrestitution LFOs; third, reducing the annual interest rate on restitution LFOs from twelve percent to six percent; and finally, empowering the sentencing court to modify or convert nonrestitution LFOs when the offender’s financial circumstances change.