Nickel and Dimed into Incarceration: Cash-Register Justice in the Criminal System

49 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2016  

Laura I Appleman

Willamette University College of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2016

Abstract

Criminal justice debt has aggressively metastasized throughout the criminal system. A bewildering array of fees, fines, court costs, non-payment penalties, and high interest rates have turned criminal process into a booming revenue center for state courts and corrections. As criminal justice administrative costs have skyrocketed, the burden to fund the system has fallen largely on the system’s users, primarily poor or indigent, who often cannot pay their burden. Unpaid criminal justice debt often leads to actual incarceration or substantial punitive fines, which turns rapidly into “punishment.” Such punishment at the hands of a court, bureaucracy, or private entity compromises the Sixth Amendment right to have all punishment imposed by a jury. This Article explores the netherworld of criminal justice debt and analyzes implications for the Sixth Amendment jury trial right, offering a new way to attack the problem. The specter of “cash-register justice,” which overwhelmingly affects the poor and dispossessed, perpetuates hidden inequities within the criminal justice system. I offer solutions rooted in Sixth Amendment jurisprudence.

Keywords: criminal justice debt, criminal fines, sixth amendment jury trial right, cash register justice, punishment

Suggested Citation

Appleman, Laura I, Nickel and Dimed into Incarceration: Cash-Register Justice in the Criminal System (March 1, 2016). Boston College Law Review, Vol. 57, 2016, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2837076

Laura I Appleman (Contact Author)

Willamette University College of Law ( email )

245 Winter St. SE
Salem, OR 97301
United States
(503) 370-6651 (Phone)

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