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|State||Citation||Question||Brief answer||Language from the opinion||When does the case apply?|
|Pennsylvania||Com. Ex Rel. Benedict Et Al. v. Cliff, 451 Pa. 427, 433-34 (Pa. 1973)||
Under state constitutional or statutory law, what are the minimum requirements for a constitutionally adequate ability-to-pay determination? Include any guidance about the substantive standards to apply, the burden of proof,+ See more
the sources of information that should be considered, and the timing of the determination (i.e. before imposition, before enforcement action, only if incarceration is threatened).
The state supreme court has held that it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and the PA state constitution's equal protection provisions to subject a defendant to jail time+ See more
simply because he is unable to pay a fine without first making a determination of the defendant's ability to pay. There appears to be no specific minimum requirements for ability-to-pay determinations. Apparently, however, the burden is on the defendant to inform and show the court that he is indigent.
It is nonetheless apparent that a state is prohibited from committing its citizens for fines without a reasonable opportunity being afforded to allow them to meet the court's directive consistent+ See more
with their respective financial situation. In the cases before us there was no determination of immediate ability to meet the mandates that had been imposed, nor was there a showing that a reasonable opportunity had been given to allow the appellants to comply without immediate incarceration. We believe that the Supreme Court has made it plain that a defendant may not be incarcerated merely because he cannot make full payment of a fine. Therefore, we hold that the appellants must be given the opportunity to establish that they are unable to pay the fine. Upon a showing of indigence, the appellants should be allowed to make payments in reasonable installments.
|Ability to pay|
|Pennsylvania||Com. v. Schwartz, 418 A.2d 637, 640 (1980)||When is the determination of Defendant's ability-to-pay made?||It is more rational to determine ability to pay before imposition of a fine.||
If the judge does not at the outset determine the defendant's ability to pay a fine, he will often be forced to imprison him at some later point, when he+ See more
fails to pay the fine. However, before a defendant may be imprisoned for not paying a fine, he must be given an opportunity to establish that he is unable to pay the fine. Commonwealth ex rel. Parrish v. Cliff, 451 Pa. 427, 304 A.2d 158 (1973); Commonwealth v. Shaeffer 228 Pa.Super. 734, 311 A.2d 361 (1973); Pa.R.Crim.P. 1407(a). If a defendant establishes that he is indigent, he will be allowed to make payments in reasonable installments. 451 Pa. at 434, 304 A.2d at 161. Thus, rather than waiting until the defendant is brought before the court for not paying a fine, it is far more rational to determine the defendant's ability to pay at the time the fine is imposed...Here, all the sentencing judge knew about appellant's financial background was that he had sold $980 worth of drugs to the undercover agents the previous year and was currently working with his father in the construction industry, “bringing home approximately $150 per week.” N.T. at 12, 13 (August 28, 1978, Guilty Plea hearing). This was hardly enough information to make an intelligent finding as to appellant's ability to pay the fine.
|Ability to pay|
Com. v. Verilla, 526 A.2d 398, 403 (1987). See also: Com. v. Opara, 362 A.2d 305, 312 (1976); Com. v. Pride, 380 A.2d 1267, 1270 (1977); Com. v. Johnson, 187+ See more
A.2d 761 (1963); Com. v. Terry, 368 A.2d 279, 280 (1977)
|Are there limits to the state’s ability to recoup fees for counsel under the state constitution?||Legislature must act for fees for counsel to be recouped from defendant||
Clearly, Damario (In re Estate of Damario, 488 Pa. 434, 412 A.2d 842(1980)) cannot be construed to permit assessment of counsel fees by a trial court simply because Appellant was+ See more
assigned court-appointed counsel, even though he was not ruled indigent. Notwithstanding the fact that there exists no case law addressing the precise issue presently before this Court, we draw support from those cases which require a finding of statutory authority before the trial court's order of reimbursement to a public defender's office would be upheld. See Commonwealth v. Terry, 470 Pa. 234, 368 A.2d 279 (1977); Commonwealth v. Pride, 252 Pa.Super. 34, 380 A.2d 1267 (1977); Commonwealth v. Opara, 240 Pa.Super. 511, 362 A.2d 305 (1975). Absent an indication by our legislature sanctioning the assessment of counsel fees for court-appointed counsel, we decline to validate orders granting such relief to counties. Parenthetically we note that § 3 of the Act of January 19, 1968, P.L. 984, 19 P.S. § 793, at one time provided for the reimbursement by a criminal defendant or a relative of the defendant to the county “for compensation and expense incurred and paid to court-appointed counsel”. However, this statute has since been repealed, 1984, October 12, P.L. 959, No. 187, § 6.
|Fines and fees|