Judiciary Committee Addresses Court Fees for Juveniles and Counterproductive Driver’s License Suspensions

DENVER, CO– The House Judiciary Committee today advanced two bills to support low income individuals who are drawn deeper into a cycle of debt and poverty due to their interactions with the criminal legal system. The bills, both sponsored by Rep. Leslie Herod, would eliminate court fees for juveniles in the justice system and end the practice of revoking or suspending driver’s licenses for offenses not related to dangerous driving. 

“Over the course of several years, we’ve taken a long, hard look at two of the ways in which the criminal legal system disproportionately impacts low-income Coloradans,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “Ending burdensome court fees on juveniles and preventing the suspension of driver’s licenses for reasons that are unrelated to dangerous driving will go a long way toward interrupting the cycles of poverty that hold our communities back. A brush up with the criminal system shouldn’t leave a family bankrupt.”

“Suspending someone’s driver’s license because they can’t afford to pay a fine isn’t the right solution to any problem,” said Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield. “We need to protect public safety, but we need to do it in a way that is fair and just.” 

HB21-1314, sponsored by Representatives Leslie Herod and Matt Gray, would limit the circumstances when driver’s licenses and learners permits can be revoked to only those where public safety requires it. It prohibits the suspension or revocation of licenses for failure to appear in court or failure to pay, but does nothing to impact revocation for driving under the influence or other offenses that reflect dangerous driving. The bill passed committee by a vote of 8-3.

Over 100,000 Coloradans have their licenses suspended for failure to appear in court or failure to pay. This is a counterproductive punishment that makes it harder for Coloradans to pay back their debts and moreover restricts their mobility, impacting their ability to get to work, appear in court, and care for their families.

HB21-1315, sponsored by Representative Leslie Herod, eliminates certain fees levied on individuals and families in the juvenile justice system. The average fees per case total about $300 in Colorado, and it is estimated that the state spends about 75% of juvenile fee revenue on collection. The bill passed by a vote of 6-4.