State Senator Lauren Book Backs Law to End Court Fees for Kids

State Senator Lauren Book Backs Law to End Court Fees for Kids

State Senator Lauren Book (D) District 32.

By Kevin Deutsch

A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers, including Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, filed legislation this week to eliminate costly court fees charged to juveniles.

Currently, Florida charges children and their families a wide range of fees and costs for their involvement in the criminal justice system, regardless of their guilt, innocence, or ability to pay.

Among the costs assessed to kids: court administration fees, public defender fees, medical care costs, probation supervision fees, costs of detention, and various surcharges.

The Debt-Free Justice for Children Act, filed in the Florida House and Senate (HB 257 and SB 428), would eliminate all fees and costs currently imposed on children up to age 18 and their families.

The law would also vacate outstanding fee orders, vacate any related debt and reinstate driving privileges for those who lost them for failure to pay.

The legislation would not impact a judge’s ability to order victim restitution or community service or impose non-monetary sanctions.

“Parents are often forced to make an impossible choice: put food on the table or pay down court debt,” said Book, whose district includes Coral Springs.

The legislators pushing the reform said court fees increase the likelihood that kids will face extended or repeated involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Young people who owe court debts have higher recidivism rates and stay on probation longer than those who do not owe court debts, the legislators said. The legislators said that such children could not expunge their records, obtain driver’s licenses, or participate in job corps programs.

In 2021, Texas, Louisiana, and several other U.S. states passed reforms to end fees assessed to juveniles and their families.

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Author Profile

Kevin Deutsch

Kevin Deutsch
Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.

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