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No Price on Justice, NY, New York's Ferguson Problem, 2020

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New York’s
Ferguson Problem
How the state’s racist fee system punishes
poverty, lacks transparency, and is overdue
for reform

I NT R O D U CTIO N
After police in Ferguson, Missouri, killed Michael Brown in 2014, a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
investigation uncovered a pattern of racially discriminatory policing incentivized by the city’s

dependence on the criminal legal system to raise money.1 The DOJ found that the City of Ferguson

stopped, cited, and arrested Black people at starkly disproportionate rates,2 and then used warrants

and jail time to coerce individuals into paying fines and fees. This pattern of enforcement, shaped by
the goal of generating revenue, resulted in systemic constitutional violations, serious harm to
community members, and “deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police

department.”3 The Ferguson budget data showed that the city generated around 12.5 percent of

revenue through fines and fees in 2010 and 2011. The city budgeted to collect over 23 percent of its
revenue through fines and fees in 2015.4

Today, in New York, the reliance on fines and fees as a revenue source is equally troubling. A national
study found that 34 New York localities are about as reliant, if not more reliant, on fines and fees

revenue as Ferguson was during the period investigated. In a dozen New York localities, the share of
revenue generated from fines and fees is over 20 percent.5 Racial disparities across the state mirror

many of the DOJ’s findings in Ferguson. Police acting as armed debt collectors6 risk Black and Brown7

lives and extract wealth from New York’s poorest communities.8 The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting

financial crisis only intensify the negative racial, economic, and health impacts9 of policing in pursuit of

revenue.

Ferguson served as a cautionary tale. Several jurisdictions across the country quickly reformed or

eliminated the use of fines and fees.10 Yet, five years later, New York continues to depend on this toxic
revenue source. This is New York’s Ferguson problem.

New York’s Ferguson Problem

1

New York’s Ferguson Problem: Reliance on Fines and Fees Revenue Across the State, Before and After
the Ferguson Report

2014

2018

'Tl

·"

Locality's percentage of total revenue collected from fines and fees
■ -0.1 to 0.1%

■ > 0.1 to 1%

■ > 1 to 2%

■ > 2 to 10%

■ > 10 to 68%

■ [Did not report legally mandated data on fines and fees]

This paper explains the urgent need to end New York’s reliance on fines and fees revenue by ending

legal system fees—beginning with the elimination of the mandatory surcharge, a fee attached to every

conviction including traffic tickets. Courts across the state do not waive or reduce these fees,

regardless of one’s ability to pay. The result is a regressive, racialized tax that systematically punishes
poverty and promotes unaccountable state and local government.

OV ERV I EW O F N E W YO R K’ S ESCALAT I NG F EE PROBLEM
Paralleling the rise of mass incarceration over the last four decades, policy changes, austerity
measures, and increased policing expanded the use of fines and fees in the U.S.11 New York

repeatedly increased its fines and fees in line with national trends (see Appendix A for details).
New York’s fines and fees vary in their application and purpose: Fines are supposed to punish and

discourage people from breaking the law. Most come from building or traffic violations for routine

issues, such as driving with a broken taillight. Fees serve solely to generate government revenue (see

2

New York’s Ferguson Problem

Appendix B for details). They are often automatic administrative charges, like Public Safety fees

attached to traffic tickets or surcharges for convictions. The government should rely on neither to
balance its budget. Doing so is a fiscal policy failure, undermining fairness, transparency, and
accountability.

New York’s fees are a regressive tax.
Disproportionately levied on low-income people and Black and Brown New Yorkers, fees use local
police and the court system as tax collectors to raise revenue for state, county, and city funds (see
Appendix C for details).12 The harsh consequences of not paying fees and surcharges creates a

two-tiered punishment system. A wealthy person paying a $175 surcharge for a misdemeanor

conviction may face a minor inconvenience, while an indigent person might lose nearly half of their
available emergency savings13 or else face debt, a civil judgement, or jail time for nonpayment.

Though New York may have a legitimate interest in using taxes to fund public systems, fees are an
unfair and unreliable fiscal policy.

The mandatory surcharge is the top contributor to this problem.
This automatic charge attaches to every conviction.14 A single fee can be hundreds of dollars, but

payment plans are largely unavailable—and judges do not waive or reduce the surcharge based on

inability to pay (see Appendices A and D for details).15 Depending on the underlying offense, those

unable to pay the surcharge may face bench warrants, arrests, incarceration, driver’s license

suspensions,16 and civil judgments (legally-enforceable debts that can impede access to credit,

housing, and employment, as well as create a public record even for an otherwise sealed case).17 For

people behind bars, up to half of the funds in their commissary accounts are garnished to pay

surcharges before the remaining funds can be used to meet their basic needs. These harms are often
borne by Black and Brown people, who are targeted by law enforcement and stopped, arrested,
convicted, and punished at higher rates.18 Thus the burden of the mandatory surcharge falls

disproportionately on Black and Brown people across the state.
Government revenue from fees is unaccountable.

New York does not keep legally mandated records on how the government assesses, collects, and

distributes revenue from individual fees, including the mandatory surcharge. New York also fails to

maintain data reporting infrastructure to track the amounts imposed and collected for specific fees,
including the mandatory surcharge and associated revenue spending (see Appendix G for more

information on the limits of these data and the authors’ collection efforts). Any legislator seeking to
reform fines and fees will ask how much each reform would realistically cost—information the state
makes impossible to obtain.

The New York Legislature has repeatedly increased fees.
Fees, such as the mandatory surcharge, should not exist, let alone be increased. But data show New

New York’s Ferguson Problem

3

York has not only increased fees over time, but also made certain fees less affordable and a much

greater financial burden. Since the creation of the mandatory surcharge in the 1980s, the surcharge for
violations has increased 178 percent more than the expected inflation-adjusted amount.19 For

misdemeanors and felonies, the surcharge increased 92 percent and 75 percent, respectively, relative
to the inflation-adjusted amount. The Legislature also removed an important release valve for people

unable to pay: until 1995, judges had the discretion to reduce or waive surcharges (see Appendix A for
more details on this legislative history).

New York Legislators Repeatedly Raised Mandatory Surcharge Amounts
$200

$100
$80

$300
$250

$150

$60

$200
$100

$40

$150
$50

$20
$0

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

$0
I I

1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006

I

I I

$100

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

I I

I

$50
I I

1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006

I I I Ii I I I I I I I I I I I Ii Ii I I I I I I I

1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2006

■ Violations Surcharge

■ Misdemeanor Surcharge

■ Felony Surcharge

■ Expected Inflation-Adjusted Amount

■ Expected Inflation-Adjusted Amount

■ Expected Inflation-Adjusted Amount

By 2008, the violation surcharge

By 2008, the misdemeanor

By 2008, the felony surcharge was

expected inflation-adjusted

the expected inflation-adjusted

inflation-adjusted amount

was 178% higher than the
amount

surcharge was 92% higher than
amount

75% higher than the expected

New York’s legislature created our Ferguson problem. It is up to them to fix it.
Although the impact of fees and criminal debt may not have been fully understood in the decades
prior to the Ferguson Report, today, the problem—and its solution—are clear. In a 2019 committee

report, the New York City Bar Association said of mandatory court fees: “Given that the aims of the

criminal justice system are in no way advanced by these mandatory surcharges and fees, and that the
revenue does not enhance the court budget, the Legislature should simply abolish them.”20

T HE R AC IST IMPACT O F N E W YORK ’S F EES
When New York imposes fees for court cases and convictions, it charges a racialized tax and creates
dangerous circumstances that put Black and Brown people at risk of police violence. The historical

4

New York’s Ferguson Problem

origins of this practice date back to the Black Codes of the Jim Crow era.21 During the COVID-19

pandemic, policing for profit is even more of a threat to community safety and well-being.

New York police and court data do not capture the impact of fines and fees by race and ethnicity;

however, the targeting of Black and Latinx New Yorkers by the criminal legal system is evident at every
step of the process. Relative to their share of the population,22 the rates of stops, arrests, convictions,
and sentences are all higher for Black and Latinx New Yorkers. These rates demonstrate how these
same communities bear the corresponding burden of fees.
Stops and Searches:
New York City data show racial disparities in stop and search practices.23 In 2019, Black people were six
times more likely to be subject to “Stop, Question, and Frisk” (SQF) compared to white people. These
disparities are also evident in arrests and summonses after SQFs: Black people were about six times

more likely to be arrested and almost nine times more likely to be issued summonses after SQFs than

white people.24 A lack of data makes it impossible to measure inequities at the state level. However, in
response to a request from the Stanford Open Policing Project, New York State Police provided nine
years of traffic stop data. An analysis of seven counties reveals that Black and Latinx drivers are

consistently stopped at higher rates relative to their share of the county’s population.25 This suggests

such racial inequality exists at the local level across the state and is driven not by “racial differences in
driving-related behavior,” but exists because “police are overly suspicious of lower-income Black
drivers and adopt a lower stopping threshold for them.”26
Arrests:
Despite representing only 14 percent of the New York population, Black people made up 38 percent
of all arrests in 2018. Likewise, although representing just 19 percent of the population, Hispanic
people made up 24 percent of all arrests.27
Convictions:
32 percent of people convicted of misdemeanor offenses in 2018 were Black, while 21 percent were

Hispanic. These disparities are more pronounced for more serious convictions—Black people made up
42 percent of felony convictions, and Hispanic people made up 23 percent of felony convictions.28
Sentences:
Finally, Black people are more likely to be sentenced to prison, compared to their share of the

population. In 2018, Black people made up 48 percent of prison sentences, Hispanic people made up
22 percent, and white people made up 28 percent. Black people were nearly two times more likely to
receive a prison sentence than their white counterparts.29

In addition to the consequences of these documented disparities, which translate to disproportionate

New York’s Ferguson Problem

5

taxing of Black and Brown communities through the mandatory surcharge, fee-driven policing

targeting Black and Brown people puts lives at risk of police violence.30 Even a routine traffic stop can

quickly turn deadly, and, as seen in Ferguson, the more a locality relies on fines and fees, the more
frequent these stops will take place to generate desired revenue. Numerous examples of this exist

across the country. A police officer, who led his department in issuing the highest number of traffic

stops and citations over a 12-month period, killed Samuel DuBose after stopping him for a missing

front license plate.31 Police stopped Philando Castile 46 times and issued him over 85 violations, almost
exclusively for non-moving offenses. Though half the violations were dismissed, the remaining

violations cost Mr. Castile over $6,000. Police shot and killed him during the 47th stop.32 These killings

are just two instances of police violence that stems from the government using law enforcement to
generate revenue and collect fines and fees.

These fines and fees practices also harm the same communities overburdened by the COVID-19

pandemic and economic crisis, putting lives and livelihoods at additional risk. The COVID-19 pandemic
worsens the severe consequences of racially discriminatory policing and makes reform more urgent
now than ever. Not only do Black and Brown people face COVID-19 mortality rates over three times
higher than white people,33 additional policing, court hearings, and potential incarceration for
non-payment all heighten the risk of infection and community spread.

Finally, though fees have always placed an outsized burden on Black and Brown people due to the
racial wealth gap and limited emergency funds, new evidence seems to indicate that this gap is

growing due to the impact of rising unemployment, disparate access to Unemployment Insurance,
lopsided work-from-home and essential worker policies, and other financial pressures tied to an
impending recession.34

FEES P U N ISH POVE RTY
Fees are financial shocks, often levied on those least able to pay—and they affect every person in New
York convicted of an offense, as well as their families, friends, and communities. Moreover, there are
almost no laws in New York that protect people from the imposition of fees they cannot afford in a

standardized way. A recent survey of New York defense attorneys shows that nearly 65 percent of local
courts “rarely” or “never” take into account a person’s ability to pay before issuing a warrant for a
missed payment.35

Fees have significant consequences for people. They impact everything from housing stability to
emotional well-being to relationships with family and friends.36

40 percent of U.S. households do not have $400 to spare without borrowing money or selling

possessions.37 Now, COVID-19 has worsened U.S. households’ financial hardships. With unemployment
rates in New York close to 16 percent through the summer of 2020,38 low-income people and, in

particular, low-income Black and Brown people, cannot afford the additional financial stress of fees.

6

New York’s Ferguson Problem

Measuring the impact of fees is exceedingly difficult due to a lack of data.
Measuring the precise impact of fees on New Yorkers—in terms of both the amounts paid and the debt
accumulated—is exceedingly difficult due to the state’s failure to collect data, even where it is legally

mandated to do so. Though statewide data are unavailable, reports from New York City and the New

York Justice Courts provide some statistics: In 2019, New York City’s criminal courts imposed over $10
million in surcharges, but collected just over $3 million (30 percent). New York City Supreme Courts

imposed nearly $4 million and collected about $611,000 (16 percent).39 In 2018, over 1,200 Justice

Courts, which cover a select group of cases in New York’s towns and villages, took in approximately
$248 million in fines and fees.40 No data are available regarding the amount initially imposed, what

percentage of that was collected, or the cost of collection.41 Furthermore, no central database shows

how many individuals across the state are impacted by fines, fees, and resulting court debt and other
consequences imposed on those who cannot afford to pay.42

The imposition of fees creates a cycle of punishment and poverty.
For far too many New Yorkers, these costs compound the long-lasting consequences of a conviction.
People with convictions often face barriers to jobs, housing, and government benefits, making

repayment even more difficult.43 Even for low-level violations, nonpayment of fees can lead to a public
court record and court debt that stays on the books for twenty years. Worse, some localities routinely
arrest and incarcerate people who are unable to pay, violating the constitutional guarantees of due
process, equal protection, and the bar on excessive fines.44

Finally, on top of these consequences, fees harm the finances, health, and safety of households,

families, friends, and communities (see Appendix F). For example, women often end up paying fines
and fees on behalf of their loved ones, adding gender justice concerns to racial and economic

injustices.45 And reliance on fees erodes public safety: “police departments in cities that collect a

greater share of their revenue from fees solve violent and property crimes at significantly lower rates.”46

B A D FI S CA L PO LICY & U N ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNM ENT
New York’s fiscal policy and reporting on fines and fees lack fundamental transparency. Now more than
ever, accountability in government funding is a crucial justice issue. Calls by advocates across the

country to alter how police and court systems are funded must be paired with a commitment to ending
the punitive, regressive, and unaccountable funding source of fees.47

New York does not transparently report statewide imposition and collection of fines and fees,
allowing it to overlook the harms associated with this revenue source.

The New York Office of the State Comptroller is one of the few state entities to provide regular

reporting on court debt revenue, but it covers only the over 1,200 Justice Courts in towns and villages
around the state. The Justice Court Fund requires the Justice Courts to file monthly reports on the

New York’s Ferguson Problem

7

disposition of collected revenue. However, the reporting does not list revenue by type of fine or fee

and, instead, provides only a lump sum of what is collected. Furthermore, collections are reported as

part of the year in which they are collected, so what is imposed or assessed versus what is collected is

unknown. More detailed information may exist in individual courts, including critical data like numbers

of civil judgments entered and people incarcerated for nonpayment, but those reporting forms are not

made routinely available to the public. The New York State Office of Court Administration only provides
data on imposed and collected surcharges in New York City (see Appendix G for more details on data
limitations).

Without transparent and detailed reporting across the state, the public—and their elected

officials—remain unaware of how many individuals are assessed fines, fees, and surcharges, and the
associated debt burden and legal consequences.

New York does not provide additional access to surcharge data, even if specifically requested.
New York law requires courts to report mandatory surcharge data to the Division of Criminal Justice

Services (DCJS).48 Since January 2020, legislators and advocates have repeatedly attempted to obtain

this reporting, but no data are available. Attempts to get disposition and collection data from DCJS, the
Office of the State Comptroller, and the Division of the Budget were unsuccessful, and each entity
confirmed they do not collect these data.

New York’s reporting system limitations are a barrier to transparency.
The state’s legacy IT systems cannot disaggregate revenue data by type for the over 1,200 Justice

Courts tracked by the Office of the State Comptroller. Collected amounts of fines, fees, and surcharges
are reported as lump sums. Despite their willingness to assist, state agency staff said they could not
fulfill more specific requests.

New York provides almost no information on how revenue is redistributed and for what purpose.
According to the Office of the State Comptroller, the majority of the state’s share of revenue collected
by the Justice Courts is distributed to the General Fund; the rest goes into eleven Special Revenue

Funds.49 While many of these funds support worthy programs, most have nothing to do with individual
convictions. The only information available shows that the state revenue goes to general government

expenses. New Yorkers deserve basic fairness, transparency, and accountability from their government.
These goals are directly at odds with relying on fees for revenue.

P O L I CY RE CO ME N DATIO N S
New York’s predatory court fines and fees put Black and Brown lives in danger. They trap New Yorkers

in inescapable debt. They allow our governments to avoid accountability for choosing this dangerous
revenue source. No New Yorker should be at risk of losing their job, their license or their freedom just

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New York’s Ferguson Problem

because they can’t afford a fine or fee. In a fair society, there can be no price on justice.
New York state can no longer be allowed to systematically extract money from the state’s most

vulnerable communities to fund local governments and courts. The following policy recommendations

will help us end dangerous and predatory fines and fees while we work towards more equitable means
of funding government.

1. End predatory legal system fees. These fees are extra costs added to every

conviction in New York. Their sole purpose is to generate revenue for state and local
governments. New York should immediately abolish all criminal and traffic fees and
surcharges, including:

Mandatory surcharges
The mandatory surcharge is a fee attached to every conviction—even traffic tickets.

Courts do not waive or assess one’s ability to pay this fee. Mandatory surcharge fees
can amount to hundreds of dollars—and fall disproportionately on Black and Brown

New Yorkers. If you cannot afford to pay the mandatory surcharge, you can be jailed
for nonpayment, subjected to a civil judgment with long-term negative effects on
access to housing and employment, or be forced to pay off the surcharge via
garnishment from your meager jail or prison wages.
Parole fees
People recently released from prisons who are on parole supervision are required to

pay a monthly fee. This fee often creates another obstacle to reintegration as people
look for work to re-establish their livelihood and wellbeing. Parole fees

disproportionately impact people of color. In 2018, Black and Latinx people made up
52.5 percent of those on parole,50 despite representing only one-third of New York’s
population.51

Probation fees
In many counties, people on probation are often made to pay probation fees or

“monthly supervision fees,” even though people on probation are much more likely

to be low-income than those who aren't. Failure to pay probation fees can result in a
longer probation sentence, loss of your driver’s license, enrollment in a mandatory
work program, or incarceration.

New York’s Ferguson Problem

9

DNA Databank Fee
New Yorkers who are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony are required to pay a

DNA Databank fee, purportedly to pay for the costs of adding their DNA sample to

New York’s DNA Databank. However, the state requires people to pay this fee even if

they have already provided a DNA sample and paid the accompanying fee on a prior
case.

2. End commissary garnishment for court debt.
People behind bars have accounts they use to buy basic necessities, but the funds in
these accounts are taken out to pay for any fines and fees that they owe—even if the
money is deposited by their family. Studies show that in 63% of cases, family

members were primarily responsible for court costs associated with a conviction. Of
the family members responsible for these costs, 83 percent were women.52
3. End arrest and incarceration for nonpayment of fines and fees.
In New York, if people don’t pay their fines and fees, they may face a warrant for their
arrest. They can be incarcerated while they wait to see a judge, and can even be
sentenced to up to a year in jail for nonpayment.
4. End mandatory minimum fines.
Convictions sometimes come with a minimum fine amount regardless of the person’s
income. This means the same fine will be easy for a wealthy person to afford, while
devastating a low-income person. Fines should be fair.

5. Transparently report all fines and fees imposed and collected within the legal
system.

These data should include geographic and demographic data, as well as the cost of

collection and how any revenue is spent. The only way to make sure our government
is fair and effective is for us to have accurate and accessible reporting.

AC K N O WLE DGE ME N TS
This paper was researched and drafted by Angela LaScala-Gruenewald, Katie Adamides, and Melissa

New York’s Ferguson Problem

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Toback of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. Thank you to the No Price on Justice Coalition for your

continuing efforts to end New York State’s criminal legal system fees and unjust collection practices. A
special thanks to the Coalition's Steering Committee members from the Fiscal Policy Institute for
diligently documenting and investigating New York fine and fee revenue data. Other Steering

Committee members offered substantial insights, comments, and edits on drafts of this paper,

especially Lindsey Smith, Skadden Fellow, Youth Justice Debt Project at Brooklyn Defender Services,

who provided valuable knowledge regarding the legal application of fees in New York. Finally, thank

you to Christopher Hughes and Renee Moore, law students at State University of New York at Buffalo,
for your legal research, as well as Dr. Anya Bernstein, Professor of Law, for sharing your students time
and their expertise with the Coalition.

A P P ENDICE S
Appendix A: Legislative History
New York legislative history shows repeated increases in fees and surcharges. Table 1 and Table 2

outline the legal history for two automatic fees associated with convictions and sentences through

2013: the mandatory surcharge and the crime victim assistance fee.53 Although surcharges also apply

to vehicle and traffic law (VTL), the following tables do not include a full accounting of VTL.

The Mandatory Surcharge (N.Y. Penal Law § 60.35), originally called the “mandatory penalty
assessment,” became effective on May 12, 1982.

Table 1. Mandatory Surcharge Legislative History

11

Date Effective

Updated Charges

Citation

May 12, 1982

Surcharges fixed at $75 for a felony conviction, $40 for a
misdemeanor conviction, and $15 for a violation
conviction.

L.1982, c. 55

April 1, 1983

Surcharges and fees added to all fines for traffic
violations; fixed at $75 for a felony conviction, $40 for a
misdemeanor conviction, and $15 for a violation
conviction.

N.Y. Veh. & Traf.
Law § 1809

May 17, 1985

Surcharges increased to $100 for a felony conviction, $60 L.1984, c. 59
for a misdemeanor conviction, and $25 for a violation
conviction.

May 25, 1990

Surcharges increased to $150 for a felony, $85 for a
misdemeanor, and $40 for a violation.

L.1990, c. 190,
§ 319

New York’s Ferguson Problem

1995

The New York Legislature passes the Sentencing Reform
Act of 1995, barring judges from waiving surcharges
associated with a conviction: “under no circumstances
shall the mandatory surcharge or the crime victim
assistance fee be waived.”

Sentencing
Remorm Act of
1995, 1995 Sess.
Law News of N.Y.
Ch. 3 (S. 5281, A. 7991)

January 1,
1998

Statue amended to instate a $5 increase in the amount
of the surcharge levied for a conviction for a
misdemeanor or violation in a Justice Court. The
purpose of the legislation was to offset an increased cost
to the State in reimbursements to these town and village
courts for certain functions.

Penal Law § 60.35(9).
L. 1997, c. 452;
Legislative
Memorandum for
Senate 898

April 1, 2000

Surcharges increased to $200 for a felony, $110 for a
misdemeanor, and $50 for a violation.

L.2000, c. 57,
pt. L, § 1

November 11,
2003

Surcharges increased to $250 for a felony, $140 for a
misdemeanor, and $75 for a violation.

L.2003, c. 62

July 1, 2008

Surcharges increased to $300 for a felony, $175 for a
misdemeanor, and $95 for a violation.

L.2008, c. 56

July 26, 2013

Mandatory Surcharge for Certain Parking Violations
(1809-aa) added, imposing a $25 mandatory surcharge
for convictions for violations of VTL 1200-02

L.2013, c. 55, pt. C,
§7

In 1989, the New York Legislature provided that, in addition to the mandatory surcharge, a crime victim
assistance fee would be levied at the time of sentence. L.1989, c. 62. The Crime Victim Assistance Fee
(N.Y. Penal Law § 60.35) became effective on April 19, 1989.
Table 2. Crime Victim Assistance Fee Legislative History
Date Effective

Updated Charges

Citation

April 19, 1989

Set at $2

L.1989, c. 62, § 101(e)

June 12, 1991

Raised to $5

L.1991, c. 166

New York’s Ferguson Problem

12

1995

The New York Legislature passes the Sentencing Reform
Act of 1995, barring judges from waiving surcharges
associated with a conviction: “under no circumstances
shall the mandatory surcharge or the crime victim
assistance fee be waived.”

Sentencing
Remorm Act of
1995, 1995 Sess.
Law News of N.Y.
Ch. 3 (S. 5281, A. 7991)

May 15, 2000

Raised to $10 (Note: The law specified that it was
effective on April 1, 2000, but the Governor signed it
into law on May 15, 2000)

L.2000, c. 57

November 11,
2003

Raised to $20

L.2003, c.62

July 1, 2008

Raised to $25

L.2008, c. 56

Appendix B: Rationales for Fees
The idea that surcharges will serve as a fair user fee on the criminal courts is old, inaccurate, and shifts

the burden of funding a public service—the courts—onto those disproportionately and unfairly targeted
for criminal punishment.54 Moreover, often this revenue goes into general funds that are allocated to

purposes unrelated to the underlying offense of the person paying. A 2016 opinion by the New York
Court of Appeals highlights this common, but inaccurate, framing of the justification for fees like the
mandatory surcharge (People v. Jones 2016):

“…the fees imposed under Penal Law § 60.35 are related to the ‘State’s legitimate

interest in raising revenues’ (People v. Barnes, 62 NY2d 702, 703 [1984])” and the

mandatory surcharge ‘is paid to the State to shift costs of providing services to victims
of crime from “law abiding taxpayers and toward those who commit crimes”’ (People
v. Quinones, 95 NY2d 349, 352 [2000], quoting Mem of State Executive Dept, 1983
McKinney’s Session Laws of NY, at 2356, and citing Penal Law § 60.35 [3]; State
Finance Law § 97-bb; Barnes, 62 NY2d 702).”

Penal Law section 60.35, creating the mandatory surcharge, was originally enacted as part of a massive
revenue-raising bill meant to “avert the loss of an estimated $100 million in State tax revenues.”55

Subsequent increases to the surcharge have followed similar rationales. The 1997 bill jacket describes
the addition of $5 to the mandatory surcharge, to be retained by local government, as a way of
defraying the costs of operating local courts—which had not been sufficiently funded by State

legislative appropriations. The bill jacket noted that the basis of the surcharge was to provide that

those who violated the law and imposed the financial burden of operating the local courts ought to

bear some of that burden, rather than the real property owner who bears the greatest financial burden

13

New York’s Ferguson Problem

of maintaining local government costs including police protection and court maintenance.56
If the legal system is to be a public good that benefits us all, then it must be funded by us all. The idea
that New York State should finance the criminal legal system with fees must be retired, especially
considering that these fees are regressive in their application, often do not fund the intended
government function, and are costly to collect.57
Appendix C: Courts as Revenue Centers
New York underfunds local governments in ways that incentivize their reliance on fines and fees for

revenue, which they collect using their police and court systems. This practice creates a serious conflict

of interest, potentially violating New Yorkers’ due process rights to a fair tribunal and even exposing the
state to civil liability.58 New York localities collect an enormous amount of funds this way. For example,
available data shows that in 2018, over 1,200 Justice Courts in towns and villages across the state

collected approximately $248 million in fine and fee revenue.59 Of the $248 million collected in 2018,

$111,215,037 was disbursed to the state; $8,116,525 was disbursed to the counties, and $129,345,629
was disbursed to the local jurisdictions.60 According to a 2010 report on the Justice Court Fund by the

New York Office of the State Comptroller, 90 percent of collected revenue was derived from fines, fees,
and surcharges imposed under the Vehicle and Traffic Law.61

Comparing Justice Court revenue collections from 2014 with collections from 201862 showed that 489

courts, roughly 41 percent, reported an increase in collections in 2018 when compared with 2014,63

with an average increase of 59 percent in collected revenue among these courts.64 510 courts saw

increases in the share of collected revenue distributed back to the locality, with an average increase of
63 percent among these courts. 70 of these courts (14 percent) saw a 100 percent or greater increase

in the share of revenue distributed back to the locality.65 Towns and villages located on Long Island, in

the Hudson Valley, and in Western New York were heavily represented among these courts. The state’s
share of the collected revenues has been fairly consistent for all examined years. A review of these
courts noted that these funds are often a “critical source of funding…to support local budgets for
police protection, sanitation, road maintenance and other key municipal functions.”66

Appendix D: Summary of Common New York Criminal and Traffic Fees
Table 3 provides information on the type and amount of common New York Criminal and Traffic Fees.
This list is somewhat based on a 2017 legal review of fines and fees statutes in nine states. The report
found 120 statutes pertaining to fines and fees in New York.67

New York’s Ferguson Problem

14

Table 3. List of New York State Court Fees
Statute

Brief Description

Amount Charged

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(i)

Felony surcharge

$300

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(ii)

Misdemeanor surcharge

$175

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(i)

Violation surcharge

$95

PENAL LAW § 60.35(10)

Proceeding in town or village court surcharge

$5

PENAL LAW § 60.27(8)

Designated surcharge to collecting agency for
the collection and administration of restitution

5-10% of restitution
depending on
restitution and cost
of collection

EXECUTIVE LAW § 257-c

Fee for probation supervision in DWI cases

$30/month

CORRECTION LAW §
168-b

Fee for making certain changes to sex
offender registry (e.g., change of address)

$10

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809(1)(a)

VEH. & TRAF. LAW Article 9 infraction
surcharge; $5 CVAF for Article 9 traffic
infractions

$25

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809(1)(b)

Crime victim assistance fee for felony or
misdemeanor convictions under VEH. & TRAF.
LAW § 1192

$25

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809(1)(b)(i)

VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1192 DWI felony

$300

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809(1)(b)(ii)

VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1192 DWI misdemeanor

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809-c

Additional surcharge for conviction under
VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1192

$25

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809-e(1)(b)

Additional surcharge for conviction under
VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1192

$175

New York’s Ferguson Problem

$175

15

16

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809(1)(c)

Mandatory surcharge for selected VEH. &
TRAF. LAW offenses

$55

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809(9)

Proceeding in town or village court surcharge

$5

VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1809-a

Surcharge required in certain cities for
parking, stopping, and standing violations
[Repealed effective September 1, 2021]

$15

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809-aa

Surcharge for certain parking violations

$25

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809-b

Surcharge for certain violations related to
handicapped parking spaces

$30

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809-d

Surcharge for violation of maximum speed
limits in highway construction or maintenance
work areas

$50

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809-e(1)(a)

Additional surcharge for certain VEH. & TRAF.
LAW violations

$28

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809-e(1)(b)

Additional surcharge for conviction under
VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 1192

$175

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(i)

Felony crime victim assistance fee

$25

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(ii)

Misdemeanor crime victim assistance fee

$25

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(iii) Violation crime victim assistance fee

$25

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(iv) Sex offender registration fee

$50

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(a)(v)

$50
DNA databank fee applicable to all felonies
and most misdemeanors, regardless if the state
already has the person’s DNA sample on file

PENAL LAW § 60.35(1)(b)

Supplemental sex offender victim fee for
specified offenses

$1,000

New York’s Ferguson Problem

CORRECTION LAW §
189(2)

Incarceration fee to “defray the costs of
incarceration”

Up to $1/week

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
1809(1)(c)

Crime victim assistance fee for selected VEH. &
TRAF. LAW offenses

$5

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
503(2)(h)

Termination of license revocation fee;
application for re-issuance

$100

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
503(2)(i)

Termination of driving privileges for
nonresident; fee for reinstatement of
privileges

$25

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
503(2)(j)

Termination of license suspension fee

$50

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
503(2)(j)

Termination of license suspension fee – alcohol
related offense

$100

VEH. & TRAF. LAW §
503(2)(j-1)(i)

$70
Termination of license suspension fee;
suspension due to failure to appear or failure to
pay

A note on local fees:
Local fees, though outside the scope of this paper, are an essential contributor to New York’s Ferguson
problem. Buffalo and Long Island recently created new local traffic conviction fees that typically add at
least $100 to existing fines and surcharges, exacerbating New York’s Ferguson problem in those

localities.68 Meanwhile, localities throughout the state continue to impose an array of unauthorized
probation fees, even though state law only permits them to impose a Driving While Intoxicated
probation fee of $30 per month, according to guidance from the state Attorney General.
Appendix E: Racial Disparities in Stops
In 2019, the New York Police Department conducted 13,251 “Stop, Question, and Frisks” (SQFs). While
60 percent of the people stopped for SQFs were Black and 29 percent of those stopped for SQFs
were Hispanic, white people accounted for only nine percent of those subjected to SQFs. Racial

disparities are also evident in the identities of those arrested and those issued summonses incident to
SQFs: Of the 4,126 SQF arrests made in 2019, Black people accounted for 58 percent, Hispanic

people accounted for 29.9079 percent, and white people accounted for 10 percent of arrests. Of the

New York’s Ferguson Problem

17

338 SQF summonses issued in 2019, Black people accounted for 65 percent, Hispanic people

accounted for 24 percent, and white people accounted for only seven percent of persons issued
summonses.

In response to the Stanford Open Policing Project’s request for traffic stop data, the New York State

Police provided limited information regarding 7,962,169 traffic stops conducted between December

2009 and December 2017.69 Table 4 summarizes the data from 2017 across seven counties compared
to the relevant 2017 population data.70

Table 4. New York County Traffic Stop Data in 2017

18

Albany County

% of population

% of total stops

White drivers

71.80%

66.20%

Black drivers

12.10%

20.50%

Hispanic drivers

6.00%

5.80%

Broome County

% of population

% of total stops

White drivers

84.00%

68.80%

Black drivers

5.10%

14.30%

Hispanic drivers

4.00%

6.00%

Erie County

% of population

% of total stops

White drivers

75.30%

71.20%

Black drivers

12.70%

17.00%

Hispanic drivers

5.50%

3.80%

New York’s Ferguson Problem

Monroe County

% of population

% of total stops

White drivers

70.30%

53.60%

Black drivers

14.40%

31.40%

Hispanic drivers

8.80%

10.60%

Nassau County

% of population

% of total stops

White drivers

59.60%

36.90%

Black drivers

11.10%

24.60%

Hispanic drivers

17.20%

17.90%

Onondaga County

% of population

% of total stops

White drivers

76.50%

70.80%

Black drivers

11.00%

19.80%

Hispanic drivers

4.90%

3.60%

Suffolk County

% of population

% of total stops

White drivers

67.10%

48.80%

Black drivers

7.40%

14.80%

Hispanic drivers

19.50%

27.40%

Appendix F: Cost to Communities
With such limited data available in New York, the authors turned to other states and broader surveys to
describe the impact of fines and fees on communities. Two recent studies highlight how an individual’s

New York’s Ferguson Problem

19

struggle with fines and fees can influence the rest of their community by destabilizing housing,
employment, and social relationships:

A survey of 980 Alabamians (including 879 people who owed money themselves and 101 people who
were paying a debt for others) found that 83 percent of people gave up necessities like rent, food,

medical bills, car payments, and child support to pay down their court debt, 38 percent admitted to
committing a crime to pay, and 66 percent received money or food assistance from a faith-based

charity that they would not have had to request if it were not for their court debt. Black women made
up the largest proportion of people paying a debt for other people.71

Another recent study interviews 380 people across eight states who are paying fines and fees (37
interviewees live in New York). Preliminary analyses indicate that these individuals struggled to

navigate the legal process of paying the amounts owed and often lean on family for both social and
economic support. Like in Alabama, the interviewees reported challenges balancing housing and

employment while paying their debt. Many said that fines and fees affected their social relationships
and caused long-term financial strain.72

Appendix G: New York’s Limited Data and the Authors’ Collection Efforts
The authors of this paper began their data collection efforts in January of 2020, starting with outreach

to the New York State Legislature. In addition to the contact with the legislature and various committees
and Senate and Assembly offices, the lead researchers for the coalition, the Fiscal Policy Institute, also
contacted the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Office of Court

Administration - New York Unified Court (OCA), the New York Office of the State Comptroller (OSC),
the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF), and the New York State Division of

Budget (DOB) in attempts to obtain data and reporting relating to the state’s mandatory surcharge,
other fees, and fines. As of July 2020, only the limited data presented in this report was received

regarding the imposition and/or collection of the mandatory surcharge. The lack of complete and

transparent reporting of all imposition, collection, and disposition of the mandatory surcharge and

other fee revenue suggests that government decision-making about these fees suffers from persistent
data gaps, which makes the individual and community impact of fees challenging to assess and
simultaneously raises questions about fiscal policy intentions. It is also in violation of New York
reporting requirements.73

The complete 2019 New York City surcharge data is publicly available. The full data referenced in this

paper is provided in Table 5. Across all five boroughs, there were 81,493 surcharges imposed through
the criminal courts; 2,482 through summonses; and 99,306 through the Supreme Courts. Surcharges
were not necessarily imposed in the year they were collected.

New York’s Ferguson Problem

20

Table 5. Surcharges Imposed and Collected in New York City by County
County

Criminal
Surcharges,
Imposed

Criminal
Surcharges,
Collected

Summons
Surcharges,
Imposed

Summons
Surcharges,
Collected

Supreme
Surcharges,
Imposed

Supreme
Surcharges,
Collected

Bronx

$1,855,795

$464,815

$16,198

$13,408

$2,585,309

$573,008

Kings

$1,971,900

$651,407

$50,412

$36,174

$2,803,434

$871,804

New York

$3,038,428

$581,300

$51,189

$16,134

$4,456,073

$756,231

Queens

$2,597,338

$1,137,366

$50,352

$47,151

$3,397,490

$1,357,300

Richmond $647,725

$220,653

$40,209

$33,113

$880,017

$253,766

Totals

$3,055,541

$208,360

$145,980

$14,122,323

$3,812,109

$10,111,186

Source: New York State Unified Court System, NYC Criminal & Supreme Court Fines, Fees, &
Surcharges on Arrest & Summons Cases by County and Court, 2019

END N OT E S
1

United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, The Ferguson Report: Department of Justice

investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (2015),

https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/04/ferguson_police_departm
ent_report.pdf
2

“Despite making up 67 percent of the population, African Americans accounted for 85 percent of FPD’s [the

Ferguson Police Department’s] traffic stops, 90 percent of FPD’s citations, and 93 percent of FPD’s arrests from
2012 to 2014.” (U.S. DOJ, The Ferguson Report (2015): 4)
3

“Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety

needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department,

contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing...Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices
have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law

enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.” (U.S. DOJ, The Ferguson Report (2015): 2)
4

The DOJ reports the precise amounts of fines and fees revenue collected relative to the budget for two years:

2010 and 2011. For 2012 to 2015, the report notes projected budget amounts and shows a steep increase in the
expected revenue from fines and fees. (U.S. DOJ, The Ferguson Report (2015): 9-10)
5

34 localities raise 10 percent or more of their revenue through fines and fees; 12 localities raise 20 percent or

more of their revenue through fines and fees. Mike Maciag, “Local Government Fine Revenues By State,”

21

New York’s Ferguson Problem

Governing, September, 2019,

https://www.governing.com/gov-data/other/local-governments-high-fine-revenues-by-state.html
6

Ariel Nelson, Wingo Smith, and Leah Nelson, “Why the Police Shouldn’t Be Armed Debt Collectors,” Governing,

July 31, 2020, https://www.governing.com/now/Why-the-Police-Shouldnt-Be-Armed-Debt-Collectors.html
7

This paper uses “Black” and “Brown” to acknowledge the unique and diverse racial identities and histories of

Black and Brown people living in America. The authors make an exception when data sources use the terms

Hispanic or Latino to track the language used in the source. Latino is adjusted to Latinx, despite the limitations of
the term, to be more gender-inclusive.
8

Mike Maciag, “Addicted to Fines,” Governing, September, 2019,

https://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-addicted-to-fines.html. See also, Board of Governors of the

Federal Reserve System, “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2019, Featuring Supplemental
Data from April 2020,” The Federal Reserve (May 2020),

https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2019-report-economic-well-being-us-households-202005.pdf
9

Limited data make it difficult to fully understand the COVID-19 health risks faced by those arrested, summoned

to court, and potentially jailed for a nonpayment. However, a growing body of research suggests that the virus has

taken a high toll on people in U.S. courts, jails, and prisons. One of the more comprehensive studies on the rates of
COVID-19 infections in prisons was published in July 2020 and finds that “The COVID-19 case rate for [people in

prison] was 5.5 times higher than the US population case rate of 587 per 100,000. The crude COVID-19 death rate
in [people in prison] was 39 deaths per 100,000 [people in prison], which was higher than the US population rate
of 29 deaths per 100,000...adjusted death rate in the prison population was 3.0 times higher than would be

expected if the age and sex distributions of the US and prison populations were equal.” Brendan Saloner et al.,
“COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Federal and State Prisons,” JAMA 324, no. 6 (August 11, 2020): 602–3,

https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.12528. Data tracking the ongoing crisis documents infections continuing to
rise rapidly in jails and prisons across the U.S. For example, see: “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case
Count,” The New York Times, accessed August 24, 2020,

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html#clusters.
10

Following the release of the Ferguson Report in 2015, advocates and policymakers worked to enact concrete

fines and fees reform. In 2016, Harvard Law School released a policy reform guide (“Confronting Criminal Justice
Debt: A Guide for Policy Reform,” Harvard Law School (September 2016),

http://cjpp.law.harvard.edu/assets/Confronting-Crim-Justice-Debt-Guide-to-Policy-Reform-FINAL.pdf.). In 2018,

California became the first state to abolish all administrative fees in juvenile delinquency cases (California SB 190);
Illinois passed a bill prohibiting courts from denying a petition to seal or expunge a criminal record simply

because the individual has unpaid court debt (Illinois HB 5341); and Michigan abolished its driver responsibility

fees (Michigan Public Acts 43-50). For more on fee reforms following the publication of the Ferguson Report, see
“The Clearinghouse,” Fines and Fees Justice Center, accessed August 24, 2020,
https://finesandfeesjusticecenter.org/clearinghouse.
11

Alexes Harris, A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor, American Sociological

Association’s Rose Series in Sociology (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2016).
12

Notably, New York outpaces other states in its per capita revenue through fines and forfeitures. A review of nine

states found that New York raised the highest amount per capita ($110) ahead of California ($68), Illinois ($60),

Texas ($60), Georgia ($57), Washington ($42), North Carolina ($41), Missouri ($38), and Minnesota ($20). Alexes

Harris et al., "Monetary Sanctions in the Criminal Justice System," Laura and John Arnold Foundation (April 2017):
17-8,

http://www.monetarysanctions.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Monetary-Sanctions-Legal-Review-Final.pdf.

New York’s Ferguson Problem

22

13

“Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018 - May 2019,” U.S. Federal Reserve (May 2019),

accessed August 24, 2020,

https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2019-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2018-dealing-with-u
nexpected-expenses.htm.
14

According to state law, mandatory surcharges, except for those collected in a town or village justice court, are

deposited into the Criminal Justice Improvement Account (CJIA). The CJIA funds programs for crime survivors and
witnesses, and some restitution. Mandatory surcharges from towns and villages are deposited in the State’s

General Fund. Additional details regarding the General Fund and Town and Village Justice Courts are discussed in
this paper’s section, “Bad Fiscal Policy and Unaccountable Government.” (For more information on fund

allocations, reference New York State Penal Law, §60.35; New York State Finance Law, §97-BB; and New York State
Vehicle and Traffic Law, §1809.)
15

C.P.L. 420.35(2) bars courts from waiving the surcharge and ending this practice across the state calls for

legislative reform. Although C.P.L. 420.35(1) applies C.P.L. 420.10(5) to the mandatory surcharge, and C.P.L.

420.10(5) requires a judge to resentence a defendant who is unable to pay a fine to alter the terms, reduce the
amount owed, or remove the fine from the sentence, the surcharge is routinely applied as mandatory and not
waivable in New York. While legal scholars may note potential constitutional arguments against this practice,

functionally, the surcharge remains mandatory. See People v. Duenas, 30 Cal. App. 5th 1157 (2019) for a recent
California case examining the constitutional issue.
16

In July 2020, the New York legislature passed the Driver's License Suspension Reform Act, backed by the Driven

by Justice Coalition, to end this practice. The legislation requires a signature from Governor Cuomo to become
law. “Press Release: NY Legislature Sends Driver’s License Suspension Reform Bill to Gov. Cuomo’s Desk,” Fines
and Fees Justice Center, July 22, 2020,

https://finesandfeesjusticecenter.org/2020/07/22/press-release-ny-legislature-sends-drivers-license-suspension-re
form-bill-to-gov-cuomos-desk/.
17

Denise Kronstadt et al., “Fines and Fees and Jail Time in New York Town and Village Justice Courts: The Unseen

Violation of Constitutional and State Law,” The Fund for Modern Courts (April 2019),

http://moderncourts.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Fines-and-Fees-and-Jail-Time-in-New-York-Town-and-Villag
e-Justice-Courts-The-Unseen-Violation-of-Constitutional-and-State-Law.pdf.
18

See data presented in this paper’s section, “The Racist Impact of New York's Fees.”

19

Data based on the legislative history collected in the appendices of this paper and data from the Consumer

Price Index for relevant dates. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, “Consumer Price Index:
Total All Items for the United States [CPALTT01USA659N],” FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, retrieved on
July 7, 2020, https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CPALTT01USA659N.
20

“Committee Report: New York Should Re-Examine Mandatory Court Fees Imposed on Individuals Convicted of

Criminal Offenses and Violations,” New York City Bar Association (May 9, 2019): 3,

https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/new-york-should-r
e-examine-mandatory-court-fees.
21

The use of monetary sanctions in the United States can be traced back to the Black Codes imposed by Southern

states following the Civil War. The Codes targeted newly freed Black people with vaguely defined and low-level

offenses punishable by fines, which could either be paid or worked off during a period of incarceration. For more

on the use of Black Codes to extract wealth from communities of color and maintain the racial hierarchy, see both

Justice Ginsburg’s opinion for the Court and Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Timbs v. Indiana, 586 U.S. ___
(2019), construing the Excessive Fines Clause.

23

New York’s Ferguson Problem

22

In 2018, Black people accounted for 14 percent of New York’s population, Hispanic or Latinx people for 19

percent of the population, and white people for 56 percent of the population. (Note: Estimates for Black and white
populations exclude those who identify as Hispanic or Latinx.) “ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates, 5-Year
Estimates Data Profile,” U.S. Census Bureau (2018), retrieved from

https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?d=ACS%205-Year%20Estimates%20Data%20Profiles&table=DP05&tid=ACS
DP5Y2018.DP05&g=0400000US36.
23

In 2018, Black people accounted for 22 percent of the New York City population, Hispanic or Latinx people

accounted for 29 percent of the population, and white people accounted for 32 percent of the population. (Note:
Estimates for Black and white alone, excluding Hispanic or Latinx.) “ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates,
5-Year Estimates Data Profile,” U.S. Census Bureau (2018), retrieved from

https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?d=ACS%205-Year%20Estimates%20Data%20Profiles&table=DP05&tid=ACS
DP5Y2018.DP05&g=0400000US36_1600000US3651000&hidePreview=true.
24

Data available at “NYPD Quarterly Reports,” New York City American Civil Liberties Union, accessed August 24,

2020, https://www.nyclu.org/en/nypd-quarterly-reports.
25

The New York State Police provided limited information regarding 7,962,169 traffic stops they conducted

between December 2009 and December 2017. Data and more details available “Findings,” The Stanford Open
Policing Project, accessed August 24, 2020, https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/findings/.
26

Racial disparities in traffic stops are a pervasive problem throughout the U.S. Indeed, in a recent study designed

to study the consequences of driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of traffic fines, researchers analyzed

traffic tickets issued in Marion County, Indiana and concluded that “police officers have lower stop thresholds for

Black drivers who look a certain way or live in certain neighborhoods.” The researchers noted that “analyses fail to
produce evidence that Black drivers violate traffic laws or engage in other driving behavior that make them more
likely to incur traffic tickets,” and thus “there is a significant probability [Black drivers] will be the subject of an

investigatory stop, regardless of their driving activity.” Sian Mughan and Joanna Carroll, “Escaping the Long Arm of

the Law? Racial Disparities in the Effect of Failure-to-Pay License Suspension,” SSRN Electronic Journal (2020): 25-7,
https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3631885.
27

“NYS Arrest and Prison Sentences,” New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (2018), retrieved from

https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/comparison-population-arrests-prison-demographics/2018%20Po
pulation%20Arrests%20Prison%20by%20Race.pdf.
28

“NYS Adult Arrests Disposed by Race/Ethnicity,” New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (2018),

retrieved from

https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/dispositions-adult-arrest-demographics/2018/NYS.pdf.
29

“NYS Arrest and Prison Sentences,” New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (2018), retrieved from

https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/comparison-population-arrests-prison-demographics/2018%20Po
pulation%20Arrests%20Prison%20by%20Race.pdf.
30

Eric Morkowitz, “The Link Between Money and Aggressive Policing,” The New Yorker, August 11, 2016,

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-link-between-money-and-aggressive-policing.
31

Exiger, “Final Report for the Comprehensive Review of the University of Cincinnati Police Department,”

University of Cincinnati Office of Safety and Reform, June 1, 2016,

https://www.uc.edu/content/dam/refresh/publicsafety-62/docs/reform/exiger-report.pdf.
32

Eyder Peralta and Cheryl Corley, “The Driving Life And Death Of Philando Castile,” National Public Radio, July

15, 2016,

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/07/15/485835272/the-driving-life-and-death-of-philando-castile.

New York’s Ferguson Problem

24

33

“The Color of Coronavirus: COVID-19 Deaths by Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.,” American Public Media

Research Lab, August 18, 2020, https://www.apmresearchlab.org/covid/deaths-by-race.
34

Darrick Hamilton et al., “White Supremacy as Pre-existing Condition: Eight Solutions to Ensure Economic

Recovery Reduces the Racial Wealth Divide,” Institute for Policy Studies (June 2019),
https://ips-dc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/RWD2020-June19-Final.pdf.
35

The survey collected data from attorneys working in Justice Courts located in 57 New York counties. More

details at Kronstadt et al., “Fines and Fees and Jail Time,” The Fund for Modern Courts (April 2019).
36

For examples, see Alexes Harris, A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor, American

Sociological Association’s Rose Series in Sociology (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2016); Matthew

Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, First Edition (New York: Crown Publishers, 2016);

Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, 2016; and Steven Mello,
“Speed Trap or Poverty Trap? Fines, Fees, and Financial Wellbeing,” November 14, 2018,
https://mello.github.io/files/jmp.pdf.
37

“Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households,” U.S. Federal Reserve, last modified May 28, 2019.

38

“Press Release: NYS Economy Added 244,200 Private Sector Jobs in July 2020,” New York State Department of

Labor, August 20, 2020, https://labor.ny.gov/stats/pressreleases/pruistat.shtm.
39

Data provided upon request by New York State Office of Court Administration. Mandatory surcharges for

summonses are inclusive of corporations and individuals. Collections represent what was collected for that year
regardless of when the mandatory surcharge was imposed.
40

“Justice Court Fund - Town and Village Court Revenue Report 2018 Calendar Year - All Counties,” New York

Office of the State Comptroller, accessed August 24, 2020,

http://wwe1.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/jc/jcf-town-and-village-revenue-report.cfm.
41

Matthew Menendez et al., “The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees,” Brennan Center for Justice (November

2019), https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/steep-costs-criminal-justice-fees-and-fines.
42

These data are difficult to obtain. No national datasets provide a count of people with fees or other court-related

debt. Research in some states provides a sense of the broad impact of fines and fees across populations. For

example, one in twelve adults in North Carolina have unpaid court debt according to a recently released study
(“The Explosion of Unpaid Criminal Fines and Fees in North Carolina,” Duke Law (April 2020): 3,

https://sites.law.duke.edu/justsciencelab/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2020/04/CSJ-Criminal-Fines-and-Fees-in-N
C-v.7.pdf.). In New York, proxy indicators can be used to begin to understand the impact. For example, traffic

convictions are the most common sources of mandatory surcharges; 2017 New York State Department of Motor

Vehicle Conviction data document over 1.4 million traffic convictions. (Data retrieved from New York Department
of Motor Vehicles, New York Open Data, accessed March 2020,

https://data.ny.gov/browse?Dataset-Information_Agency=Motor+Vehicles%2C+Department+of; convictions

recorded from traffic tickets issued to motorists for violations of NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law (VTL), Thruway Rules and

Regulations, Tax Law, Transportation Law, Parks and Recreation Regulations, Local New York City Traffic Ordinances,
and NYS Penal Law.)
43

“Collateral Consequences Inventory,” Justice Center, accessed August 24, 2020,

https://niccc.csgjusticecenter.org/database/results/?title=&jurisdiction=204&consequence_category=234%2C31

%2C239&narrow_category=&triggering_offense_category=&consequence_type=&duration_category=&page_nu
mber=1; RJ Vogt, “ Have A Criminal Record? COVID-19 Relief May Be Out Of Reach,” Law 360, May 3, 2020,
https://www.law360.com/articles/1269641/have-a-criminal-record-covid-19-relief-may-be-out-of-reach.

New York’s Ferguson Problem

25

44

Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956); Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983); People v. Montero, 124 Misc. 2d

1020 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep’t 1984).
45

Saneta deVuono-powell et al., “Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families,” Ella Baker Center,

Forward Together, Research Action Design (2015), http://whopaysreport.org/
46

Rebecca Goldstein, Michael W. Sances, and Hye Young You, “Exploitative Revenues, Law Enforcement, and the

Quality of Government Service,” Urban Affairs Review 56, no. 1 (January 2020): 5–31,
https://doi.org/10.1177/1078087418791775.
47

For more on the relationship between fees and the police divestment movement see “Fines, Fees and Police

Divestment: Statement and Policy Recommendations,” Fines and Fees Justice Center, August 4, 2020,

https://finesandfeesjusticecenter.org/2020/08/04/fines-fees-and-police-divestment-statement-and-policy-recomm
endations/.
48

New York Consolidated Laws, Criminal Procedure, Section 420.35(3): Fines, Restitution, and Reparation

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CPL/420.35.
49

The eleven funds are Conservation Fund, Marine Resources Account, Boating Noise Level Enforcement Fund, I

Love NY Waterways Boat Safety Fund, Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Fund, Criminal Justice
Improvement Account, Uninsured Employers’ Fund, Highway Construction/Maintenance Safety Fund, Patron
Services Account, Commercial Vehicle Safety Program Fund, and the Indigent Legal Services Fund.
50

David Weprin et al., "2018 Annual Report Standing," The State of New York Assembly Committee on Correction

(2018), https://nyassembly.gov/write/upload/postings/2019/pdfs/20190319_0085751.pdf.
51

“ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates, 5-Year Estimates Data Profile,” U.S. Census Bureau (2018), retrieved

from

https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?d=ACS%205-Year%20Estimates%20Data%20Profiles&table=DP05&tid=ACS
DP5Y2018.DP05&g=0400000US36.
52

Saneta deVuono-powell et al., “Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families,” Ella Baker Center,

Forward Together, Research Action Design (2015), http://whopaysreport.org/
53

Data obtained through William Donnino, Practice Commentary, McKinney’s NY Penal Law § 60.35.

54

See Timbs v. Indiana, 586 U.S. ___ (2019).

55

Legislative Memo in Support, Bill Jacket, L. 1982, ch. 55, at 6.

56

See New York Bill Jacket, 1997 S.B. 898, Ch. 452.

57

Menendez et al., “The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees,” Brennan Center (November 2019).

58

See Caliste v. Cantrell, Civil Action No. 17-6197 Section "L" (5) (E.D. La. 2020); and Brucker v. City of Doraville,

391 F. Supp. 3d 1207 (N.D. Ga. 2019).
59

Michelle Breidenbach, “How much do town, village courts in NY state collect in traffic and other fines?,”

Syracuse, May 22, 2019,

https://www.syracuse.com/crime/2019/05/how-much-do-town-village-courts-in-ny-state-collect-in-traffic-and-othe
r-fines.html.
60

“Justice Court Fund - Town and Village Court Revenue Report 2018 Calendar Year - All Counties,” New York

Office of the State Comptroller, accessed August 24, 2020,

http://wwe1.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/jc/jcf-town-and-village-revenue-report.cfm.

26

New York’s Ferguson Problem

61

“Report on the Justice Court Fund,” New York Office of the State Comptroller (August 2010),

https://www.osc.state.ny.us/sites/default/files/local-government/documents/pdf/2019-02/justicecourtreport2010.
pdf.
62

1,205 Justice Courts had complete reporting available for both 2014 and 2018.

63

Only those courts reporting increases at or above 3 percent were counted as having revenue increases.

64

The Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of Justice Court Fund Town and Village Revenue Report data from the Office

of the State Comptroller. Data retrieved from “Justice Court Fund - Town and Village Court Revenue Report 2018
Calendar Year - All Counties,” New York Office of the State Comptroller, accessed August 24, 2020,
http://wwe1.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/jc/jcf-town-and-village-revenue-report.cfm.
65

Ibid.

66

Kronstadt et al., “Fines and Fees and Jail Time,” The Fund for Modern Courts (April 2019): 2.

67

An asterisk (*) notes statutes that, as of 2017, had sections or subsections that were set to expire.

68

“Applicable Fees,” Nassau County New York, accessed August 24, 2020,

https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/2798/Applicable-Fees; “Applicable Fees,” City of Buffalo, accessed August 24,
2020, https://www.buffalony.gov/faq.aspx?qid=195.
69

As discussed in the paper, New York law does not mandate the collection and analysis of traffic stop data.

70

Sources: Emma Pierson et al., “A Large-Scale Analysis of Racial Disparities in Police Stops Across the United

States,” Stanford Computational Policy Lab (2019), https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/data/; and DataUSA,
https://datausa.io, accessed December 31, 2019.
71

Alabama Appleseed et al., “Under Pressure: How Fines and Fees Hurt People, Undermine Public Safety, and

Drive Alabama’s Racial Wealth Divide,” Alabama Appleseed (2018),

https://www.alabamaappleseed.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/AA1240-FinesandFees-10-10-FINAL.pdf.
72

Preliminary findings reported in Alexes Harris et al., “United States Systems of Justice, Poverty and the

Consequences of Non‐Payment of Monetary Sanctions: Interviews from California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota,
Missouri, Texas, New York, and Washington,” Multi-State Study of Monetary Sanctions (November 2017),

http://www.monetarysanctions.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Monetary-Sanctions-2nd-Year-Report.pdf.
73

NY Criminal Procedure Law § 420.35 (2012)

New York’s Ferguson Problem

27

 

 

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