Governor Youngkin Vetoes Critical Legislation That Would Help Young People in the Commonwealth

Katy Otto,

 

Governor Youngkin vetoed legislation that would give judges the ability to waive certain driving fees, understanding the harm of fines and fees assessed to youth

 

Richmond, VA (April 9, 2024) – Late last night in the state capital, Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed HB 1264, killing a bill that could have provided needed relief to youth and families. This bill, patroned by Delegate Irene Shin, had bipartisan support and would have made fines, fees, and court costs discretionary for youth traffic infractions.

“This is a sad moment for Virginia. Today Governor Youngkin has chosen to ignore the harms created by imposing mandatory fines and fees on youth. Placing these financial burdens on young people and their families is fiscally irresponsible, threatens public safety, and is fundamentally immoral,” Juvenile Law Center staff attorney Chris Lin said.

Young people have limited means to pay fees and fines, and these economic sanctions often push them deeper into poverty and the system. In Virginia, small traffic infractions can become sizable expenses once costs are added by the Commonwealth’s mandatory court fees.  For example, a $30 fine for a U-turn can easily balloon into total costs of $218 once fees are added.  

“When children are issued fines and fees by the justice system, it is most often their families who pay the bills. These costs tend to drive youth deeper into the system, and drive families deeper into poverty, said Monica Hutchinson, Policy Director at RISE for Youth. "Eliminating youth fines and fees would have required courts to treat youth, regardless of family wealth, the same and rely on the many other tools judges have to help youth get back on the right track. 

“Court fines and fees for young people are unjust and particularly harm Black youth, families, and communities. A coalition of organizations across the Commonwealth and nation have banded together to continue to fight to end juvenile fees and fines in Virginia. While some work has been done to this end in recent years, much is left to be done,” said Emily King, Senior Policy Analyst for the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

“I am disappointed that Governor Youngkin has vetoed HB 1264.” Delegate Irene Shin said. “This bipartisan legislation would have granted judges greater discretionary powers when adjudicating juvenile traffic cases. Judges would have been able to reduce or waive mandatory fines and fees based on the specific circumstances surrounding each case brought before them. As it stands, these one-size-fits-all mandatory penalties create a disproportionate and unjust burden, where wealthy households can afford to pay while low-income families find themselves mired in compounding interest and debt.”

Youth, staff, and lawmakers are available for comment and interview.

 

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About the Expert

Katy Otto joined Juvenile Law Center in 2016. With a background in communications, development and government relations, she is responsible for the organization’s overall messaging strategy and implementation. She is passionate about youth justice, and committed to ensuring that the public learns about the challenges facing youth in the child welfare and justice systems.

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