Law Offices of Jess C. Bedore III - Certified Specialist in Criminal Law
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Debt after criminal fines can cause unfortunate cycle

Imagine this scenario: you are driving to work one day but you are going a little too fast. The police pull you over for speeding and they give you a ticket -- but wait a minute. It turns out you forgot to renew your license. Now the police throw more fines at you and you're required to appear in court, at which point you tell a judge you are unable to pay the exorbitant fines that have suddenly piled up.

So what does the court do? It puts you on a 30-day period of probation and turns your case over to a for-profit company that collects fines and deal with probation relating to violations of the law. Well guess what? That company has fees and fines if you aren't able to pay, and since you still can't pay, you fail your parole. You're still in debt, and now you're in a jail cell.

This may sound like some horrible nightmare, but it actually happened to a 19-year-old. He lost his job and it plunged him into a cycle of jail and debt.

It's situations like these that put the criminal defense side of our justice system into focus. Everyone has the right to an attorney and an unbiased trail. But the need for it is clear when you see that such a horrible punitive system has greatly affected this unfortunate 19-year-old. This could happen to anyone, and the privatization of certain elements of the criminal justice system does nothing to help our society.

Source: The Atlantic, "Lock Up for Being Poor," Jessica Pishko, Feb. 25, 2015

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