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Debt-Free Justice

Michigan’s youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system have long grappled with enduring financial burdens that extend far beyond childhood. In November 2023, Michigan made a significant move, aligning with 22 other states to reform the fees and costs associated with court involvement.  As a crucial component of the Justice for Kids and Communities legislation, Michigan has eliminated the majority of fines and fees for juveniles, all except those related to restitution and the Crime Victims Fund.

SB 428 Sen. Chang

  • 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  • MCL 712A.18M - State Minimum Costs, Repealed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 October 1, 2024, any outstanding balance is unenforceable and uncollectable

SB 429 Sen. Irwin

  • Youth are exempt from paying for DNA assessment fees

HB 4636

Rep. Dievendorf 

  • Exempts youth from late fees

HB 4637

Rep. Glanville

  • Removes court costs for youth assigned PA-150 status

  • Courts are unable to charge for reimbursement for attorney costs 


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.

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.


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