By Darling Gonzalez
RIVERSIDE, CA – Mandatory court fees are an increased burden in California courts, note criminal justice reformers, but Judge Eric Isaac reduced multiple fines for those accused of misdemeanor crimes late last Friday in Riverside County Superior Court.
NOTE: The names used here are not the accused’s real names, per The Vanguard’s new policy of not identifying the real names in lower level misdemeanor cases. See Editor’s Statement.
“Steve X,” charged with domestic violence and about to be enrolled in a domestic violence program, was facing heavy fees, and his attorney said Steve X had enrolled in the Salvation Army residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and requested his domestic violence program be deferred.
Judge Issac commended him for being proactive in getting that done and granted the request to defer his enrollment in the domestic violence program until he got his current program completed.
Due to Steve X’s time commitments in the rehabilitation program, the defending attorney stated that the likelihood of his getting employment in the near future was not very likely, so he requested fees and fines of the court to be stricken.
Judge Isaac replied, “The court will find the inability to pay, sir, and will suspend the fees that I can on this case, which would be the $40 operations fee, $30 convictions assessments fee, $500 domestic violence fee, and $150 restitution fine. The $300 civil assessment still has to remain in place.”
Judge Isaac also addressed that he understood it would be difficult for Steve X to be actively participating in his rehabilitation program and pay other fines from other charges in his file.
However, for now he could only reduce fines from this particular case. The total reduction from this case was from $1,020 to $300.
In another case, defendant, “Kevin Y” was sentenced to three years of probation after being charged with domestic violence.
His defense attorney said Kevin Y was not currently employed, and because he had been incarcerated for a couple weeks he would need time to get back on his feet.
“Based upon your attorney’s representation…the court will find the inability to pay and stay your fines and fees which includes the $500 domestic violence fund fine as well as the $150 restitution fine, and $40 and $30 court operations fees,” Judge Isaac said.
Kevin Y was also ordered to enroll in the 52-week domestic violence program, not to have any firearms or deadly weapons for the next 10 years, as well as obey a no contact order from the alleged victim.
Later that morning, “Eze Z” requested program termination because the allegation for violation of probation was a first time violation.
The prosecution, then, withdrew that violation of probation and reinstated Eze Z to his probation in the work release program.
Judge Isaac stated Eze Z had many fees due and that, although he had managed to pay some fines, he still had a long way to go.
“What is your current financial situation?” Judge Isaac asked, and Eze Z said he was employed and was able to pay his fees by payments.
Judge Isaac then stated, “Given your employment status, it’s going to take a long time to get that paid off and I don’t want that to be a ball and chain that’s following you around for the next several years, especially as you’re looking to try to find work.”
Judge Isaac stayed the $40 operations fee, $30 conviction assessment fee, $145.41 restitution fund fee and the $50 administration fee.
“I’m saving you probably around $350 out of $9,100, so it will go down to about $8,700. It’s quite a bit and I don’t want to see you come back for a violation of probation because you can’t pay your fine and fees,” Judge Isaac said.
Judge Isaac then ended by telling Eze Z that, although he had reduced some of the weight of the fees, he wanted to make sure he was on a payment plan so the fines would not burden his progress.