Paying a fine is no fun, but if it’s not paid off the initial fine will grow and grow, with no limit on the total amount that can be charged. Not only does the original jurisdiction charge fees and interest as the fine goes unpaid, but so do the courts, the Office of State Debt Collection, and even third party debt collection agencies. What was once a $50 parking ticket could become a $200 charge with all of the fees and interest added on.
This is a major problem nationwide and has garnered all sorts of media attention. People who violate the law should certainly be held accountable, but these compounding consequences for low level crimes should not be so financially debilitating that they ruin someone’s life.
Our position is that late fees and interest should be limited to a reasonable amount in order to prevent the overall financial penalty from ballooning out of control. We proposed legislation that became House Bill 336, sponsored by Representative Dan McCay, which addressed this problem by capping the amount of interest and fees each entity can charge on unpaid fines.
HB 336 allows fees and interest to be assessed on an underlying fine, but only up to 25% of the initial amount. This reasonable restraint will ensure that a penalty for non-payment happens, but does not grow exponentially to substantially exceed the underlying fine amount.
Because this law will require process adjustments for the affected agencies, there is a delayed implementation date of July 2019. This gives a sufficient amount of time to plan and prepare for how to apply these changes within each agency.
When HB 336 does take effect, it will help thousands of Utahns who forget or neglect to pay their fine. It could help each individual save hundreds of dollars and will ensure they aren’t paying a disastrously high amount for a low-level offense.
The heavy imposition of additional fees on an initial fine has been an issue for quite some time. Thankfully, the Legislature passed this bill—71-2 in the House and unanimously in the Senate—to put limits on these financial penalties. This is a significant step in the right direction towards a more fair approach to making Utahns pay fees.