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Debt-Free Justice

Youth who are involved in the justice system encounter many consequences, such as probation or out of home placement. One aspect of juvenile court involvement that can last well beyond childhood is the financial burden of juvenile court debt.

Take action for Debt-Free Justice by urging the Michigan House Judiciary Committee to take up House Bills 4987-4991 and vote YES!

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HB 4987

Rep. Hope

  • MCL 712A.2F - Consent Calendar Case Fees

    • ​The court shall not order the youth or their parent/guardian to pay for costs associated with consent calendar services​​

  • MCL 712A.18 - Disposition Order Fees

    • Eliminates minimum state costs​

    • Removes the ability for residential placement superintendents to be placed as "special guardians" and receive benefits for the care of the youth

    • Youth and their parents/guardians are not responsible for costs of care, services, court-appointed representation, or other costs related to juvenile court proceedings

    • Youth may not be placed outside their home solely on nonpayment or refusal to perform community services

  • MCL 712A.18M - State Minimum Costs, Repealed

  • MCL 712A.29 - Allocation of costs paid by a youth

    • 100% of money collected must go to victims payments​

  • MCL 712A.29a - New Section

    • Affirmative statement that the court shall not order a youth or their parent/guardian to reimburse the court for any fines, fees, or costs related to the youths court case​

    • Beginning July 1, 2022, any outstanding balance is unenforceable and uncollectable

HB 4988

Rep. Kahle

  • Diversion agreement must not include reimbursement requirements related to the costs of diversion services

HB 4989

Rep. Lightner

  • Youth are exempt from paying for DNA assessment fees

HB 4990

Rep. Tate

  • Removes court costs for youth assigned PA-150 status

  • Courts are unable to charge for reimbursement for attorney costs 

HB 4991

Rep. Calley

  • Exempts youth and their parent/guardian from late fees


Youth Portrait

Juvenile court fines and fees can be assessed for a variety of reasons, including confinement, legal counsel and treatment. If the youth or family are unable to pay, money can be taken out of their wages or unemployment checks, and they can even be arrested.  These fees remain on the record until paid, even if the youth is no longer under jurisdiction of the court. 

Fines and fees do not always serve the cause of justice. The higher the fine or fee, the more likely it is that it won't be paid. Some youth may even waive their right to counsel or plead guilty because they cannot afford attorney fees. Youth of color are more likely to be adjudicated delinquent or placed outside the home than their white peers. As a result, they are more likely to be negatively impacted by court costs.

Early in 2020, the National Juvenile Defender Center conducted an assessment of juvenile defense, that included the use of fines and fees in Michigan. The graphic below was part of the report, highlighting the many ways in which fines and fees can impact a youth in the justice system.

A graphic with the text 'Potential Costs and Fees in Michigan's Juvenile Courts' in the top right corner that shows through dotted lines connecting circles potential costs and fees for youth in the juvenile justice system.

Pending Legislation


  • Introduced SB 455, currently in the Committee on Judiciary. This bill would relieve youth and their guardian from fines, fees, and costs associated with the juvenile court. 


  • Introduced SB 817, currently in the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. The bill would eliminate fees, court costs, and fines associated with juvenile court. This would include attorney fees and would apply retroactively.


  • Introduced HB 216 which would eliminate administrative fees, costs, and taxes related to juvenile delinquency cases. 

Macomb County, MI

  • Eliminated the assessment and collection of juvenile court fines and fees

  • Discharged $84M in outstanding debts

The following is a list compiled by the Juvenile Law Center and can be found in its completion here.


  • Passed SB 190, eliminating most juvenile court fines and fees. More than 30 counties have wiped out youth justice system debt.

Washington State

  • Passed the Year Act, state legislation that eliminated numerous diversion fees, court costs, appellate courts, adjudication fees, and certain fines.


  • Passed AB 439, state legislation eliminating most fines and fees charged to families of system-involved youth as of July 1, 2019. This bill was passed unanimously by both houses and signed by the Governor.


Philadelphia, PA

Dane County, Wisconsin

Orleans Parish, Louisiana

  • Passed a resolution to end the practice of charging all discretionary juvenile court fines and fees, including several care and treatment fees, court fees, counsel fees, and probation fees.

Beyond Fines and Fees:
A Youth Action Month Webinar

  • In celebration of Youth Justice Action Month, MCYJ hosted Beyond Fines and Fees. The impacts of juvenile justice system fines and fees on youth and families were discussed from both state and national leadership working to advance debt free justice. Watch the full recording below.

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