Yesterday, the House passed two bills sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, HB 2085 and HB 1390. These bills help poor defendants get back on their feet, ensure crime victims get restitution and help fund our criminal justice system in a fair manner.
“Being poor isn’t a crime,” said Goodman. “But thousands of low-income Washingtonians have their drivers licenses suspended just because they can’t pay traffic fines.”
HB 2085 fixes this problem by giving judges discretion to use community service rather than fines or develop payment plans to those who can pay. This way, more defendants are able to keep their licenses, allowing them to drive to and from work and more traffic fines are actually paid.
HB 1390 revamps Washington state’s Legal Financial Obligation (LFOs) system. Debtors prisons were supposed to be outlawed. But twenty percent of the offenders in jail are there just because of failure to pay. Sending poor people to jail is not effective. Eighty percent of them enter the system with an inability to pay, and they come out with even more debt.
“Washington’s LFO system is a failure,” said Goodman. “Counties are spending more on collection efforts than they are actually collecting. Less than 24% of obligations are paid. The ridiculously high interest is not a motivator, but an impediment. With this bill, we are going to help offenders pay more and make sure victims get the restitution they deserve.”