Parents of teens in Louisiana who are facing criminal charges in juvenile court can find some relief. Thanks to a new law, the state has eliminated fees from the costs of going to court. Here are some facts of the law that you should know.
What is the new law?
The new Louisiana law started off as the HB 216 bill created by State Representative Royce Duplessis. The law is known as “Debt Free Justice” and eliminates all fees associated with the costs of going to juvenile court for young people in the state facing charges and needing a strong defense.
Representative Duplessis acknowledged that much work was needed in the criminal justice system, in general, but stated that fees tied to juvenile cases were particularly hefty.
While the law removes administrative fees and costs, as well as taxes on juvenile offenders, it doesn’t affect punitive damages or restitution ordered to victims. Offenders still need a solid criminal defense strategy to potentially avoid such damages.
How does the law impact families?
Before the law went into effect, families were impacted by the fees associated with cases involving their children. Families of color were affected most as many of them had limited financial resources.
The bill passed into law thanks to bipartisan support and was signed by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards in June. Members of various groups who backed the bill were delighted that the law was passed and expressed hope that it would bring much-needed relief to families and youth disproportionately affected by poverty and risk.
Before the law passed, on average, the average cost of juvenile court fees was around $642. This put an undue burden on families who didn’t have many resources. Families often had to decide whether to pay the fees or buy groceries to have food on their tables.