What Happens If You Cannot Pay Your Criminal Fines?

Criminal fines are monetary penalties that are assessed after a criminal defendant has been convicted of a crime. Many state and federal criminal laws allow the judge handing down the sentence to order the defendant to pay a fine as a punishment for a crime. This fine may act as the singular form of punishment, or it may be combined with an incarceration penalty. For some criminal convictions, a judge has to abide by a penal statute handed down by the state legislature. In other cases, a judge has more discretion to hand down a conviction penalty. Either way, those incarceration penalties may also include fines.

The question we pose in this article is, after a judge has determined the appropriate criminal fine, what if you as the defendant do not have the means to pay that fine? If you or a loved one faces this inability to pay a criminal fine, or need representation in a criminal matter involving monetary punishment, contact the attorneys at Krasner & Long.

brown gavel on the table

In order to better understand what happens if a defendant is unable to pay his or her criminal fines, it is important to understand the basics of what they are. A criminal fine, generally speaking, means that you have to pay the court a certain amount of money as a result of a criminal act.

The amount you pay is typically based on the statute encompassing the law you broke. Take for example the Pennsylvania DUI Statute. The statute in Pennsylvania regarding penalties for driving under the influence is ยง 3804(a):

General impairment — Except as set forth in subsection (b) or (c), an individual who violates section 3802(a) (relating to driving under influence of alcohol or controlled substance) shall be sentenced as follows:

The statute then goes on to deliver the appropriate penalties. Those penalties are:

Generally speaking, the enforceability of the fine is based on increment payments up until a certain due date. The date is included in the Sentencing order, which is a document from the specific court order declaring that you are to pay a fine.

So what happens if I can't pay?

If you do not have the means to pay a criminal fine, some courts allow defendants to develop a payment plan. This payment plan allows defendants to comply with their court ordered penalty.

If, even after a payment plan, you still cannot afford to pay a fine, then you need to take additional steps to work with the court in order to come into compliance with a penalty. Under federal law, if you do not pay a fine, the court can resentence you to any incarceration sentence that was taken away as a result of you agreeing to pay a fine. If a criminal fine was combined with any jail or prison time, then the courts have discretion to take on even more time to the original sentence. Any act to not pay a fine is considered contempt of court, which is obviously not a good thing, because it leads to a longer and harsher criminal sentence.

Another issue to be concerned with in the realm of criminal fines is property liens. If you refuse to, or cannot, pay a criminal fine, then the courts are allowed to implement a lien against your property. These liens may include garnishment of your wages, foreclosure of your real estate, and execution and sale of personal property. Each of these liens are used in order to force you to pay your criminal fines.

Judge's hand holding wooden hammer

If you or a loved one has been convicted of a criminal offense, and penalized with a fine, then you need to contact the criminal defense attorneys at Krasner & Long. We have years of experience defending clients against a wide range of misdemeanor and felony charges in Pennsylvania, including sex crimes, drug crimes, and federal crimes. We will protect your loved one's legal rights while vigorously fighting the charges on their behalf.

There are very serious consequences associated with avoiding payment of criminal fines, and you need an attorney that you can trust and will fight for you every step of the way. To discuss your legal matter in a free, completely private case consultation, call our law offices at (215) 882-9752 today.

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