Court fines and fees have been a recent conversation topic among North Carolina lawmakers. Several advocacy groups, like the North Carolina Fines and Fees Coalition (NCFFC), seek to raise awareness on the impact court fines and fees have on low-income communities. Last month, they held an event at Bennett College in Greensboro to educate the local community on court fines and fees.

The group hopes to change policies on North Carolina court costs by bringing attention to the socioeconomic impact these fees, including cash bail, have on low-income families.

Court costs in detail

The number and type of fees one might accrue in a civil or criminal case can vary. Common fines charged to defendants in North Carolina include:

  • General court of justice fee: $147.50
  • Facilities fee: $12
  • Telecommunications and Data Connectivity fee: $4
  • Law Enforcement Retirement Fund: $7.50
  • Appointment of counsel fee: $60+
  • Installment payments fee: $20+
  • Community service fee: $250+
  • Improper equipment fee: $50
  • Pre-conviction jail fee: $10+ per day
  • Local facility jail fee: $40+ per day

Even those falsely accused or found not guilty may indebt themselves to the state for years. A 2017 report from the North Carolina Poverty Research Fund posits that 80-85% of inmates leaving prison still owe court costs. Over the past two decades, court fees in North Carolina have increased by 400%.

A push for change

The NCFFC argues these figures create a “two-tier justice system” in which low-income individuals not only face the accusation of a crime, but newly accrued debt. The organization also argues that a criminal defense lawyer who understands North Carolina courts could convince a judge to waive many of these court fees. Judges often approve these waivers for poor defendants.

Those accused of a crime in North Carolina can secure a proper defense at a reasonable cost with the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.