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How do New York courts impose fines and fees for convictions?

How New York Courts Impose Fines and Fees for Convictions

If you are convicted of a crime in New York, whether it’s a felony, misdemeanor, or violation, you will likely face fines and fees as part of your sentence. These financial penalties can really add up and become an unfair burden, especially for low-income New Yorkers.

Let’s take a look at some of the common fines and fees imposed by New York courts and how they impact people:

Mandatory Surcharges

One of the biggest fines is the mandatory surcharge that gets tacked onto every criminal conviction in New York. The amounts are:

– Felony conviction: $300
– Misdemeanor conviction: $175
– Violation conviction: $95

These surcharges were created to raise money for various state funds, but in reality they disproportionately hurt poor defendants. Someone living paycheck to paycheck can end up with crippling debt from these surcharges. There are calls from advocates to eliminate mandatory surcharges and only impose fines that are directly tied to the offense, like restitution.

Crime Victim Assistance Fee

On top of the surcharges, anyone convicted of a felony, misdemeanor or violation in New York also has to pay a crime victim assistance fee. This money goes to services for victims of crime. The fee is $25 for a felony, $20 for a misdemeanor, and $10 for a violation. Again, while the services are important, tying the funding to court fees puts an unfair burden on often low-income defendants.

DNA Databank Fee

If you are convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in New York, you will be hit with a DNA databank fee of $50. This pays for the state’s DNA identification index that stores DNA profiles of convicted offenders. While DNA analysis is useful in criminal investigations, making defendants foot the bill can end up harming rehabilitation efforts.

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Sex Offender Registration Fee

Those convicted of sex offenses in New York must pay a sex offender registration fee. This fee covers the costs of maintaining the state’s online sex offender registry. The fee is imposed annually and the amount depends on the level of sex offender you are classified as – Level 1 is $50, Level 2 is $100, and Level 3 is $200.

Probation and Parole Supervision Fees

If you are sentenced to probation or parole supervision, you will have to pay fees that end up funding the probation and parole departments. The fees typically range from $30-$50 per month. While it makes sense for departments to recoup some costs through fees, tying basic supervision to one’s ability to pay is problematic.

Incarceration Fees

Those sentenced to jail or prison in New York face fees for their room and board while incarcerated. The rate is $10 per week while in county jail and $5 per week while in state prison. Again, while some fees make sense, making incarceration contingent on being able to pay is troubling.

Driver Responsibility Fees

If you lose your driver’s license for an alcohol or drug conviction in New York, you will have to pay driver responsibility fees to get your license back. These fees are $250 per year for 3 years ($750 total) and the payments go to the state’s general fund. Many advocates argue this double-jeopardy fee should be eliminated.

Impact of Fines and Fees

While the above fines and fees may seem small or reasonable on their own, they really add up when you total them altogether. The combined fines and fees for a single conviction can easily exceed $1,000 and become an extreme burden.

These court-imposed debts often lead to a cycle of even more fees and penalties when people inevitably can’t afford the payments on time. Missed payments lead to late fees, collection fees, and even driver’s license suspensions in some cases – making it even harder for people to pay.

The impact falls disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color. These fines and fees make it harder for people to successfully reintegrate into society and achieve financial stability after a conviction.

There are growing calls from advocates and lawmakers to eliminate excessive fines and fees in New York courts. Reform bills like the End Predatory Court Fees Act would reduce or eliminate many of the problematic fees discussed above.

Defense Strategies for Fines and Fees

If you are facing potential fines and fees after a conviction in New York, here are some strategies that a criminal defense lawyer may use to help reduce your financial penalties:

  • Ask for fines and fees to be waived – The judge has discretion to waive or reduce fines and fees if payment would cause excessive hardship.
  • Request community service alternative – Judges can substitute community service for fines and fees in some cases.
  • Petition for remission – You can petition to get mandatory surcharges waived if they would cause extreme hardship.
  • Payment plans – Work with the court to establish an affordable payment plan for any fines and fees imposed.
  • Challenge unconstitutional practices – Your lawyer may argue that imposing certain fines/fees in your case is unconstitutional.

Don’t be afraid to speak up about how potential fines and fees could impact you and your family. Your lawyer is there to advocate for the fairest financial punishment.


Fines and fees associated with criminal cases in New York can be excessive and counterproductive, but a good defense lawyer can help mitigate the damage. There are ongoing efforts to reform fines and fees practices to be more just. Contact an attorney if you need help fighting unfair fines and fees in your case.

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