Supreme Court Rules Constitution's Excessive-Fines Clause Applies to States

Mark Walsh, Education Week Blog •

Although the opinions did not directly address the concerns raised about juvenile justice fines, the Juvenile Law Center's brief in support of incorporating the excessive-fines clause cited several examples of youths who faced excessive juvenile justice fines after incidents that began at school.

One 16-year-old Philadelphia girl got into a fight at school while trying to protect her brother from bullying and ended up getting three years probation in the juvenile justice system. At the end of that three years, the brief said, the girl was informed she could close her case only if she paid $420 in fines. Because she did not have they money, she had to serve another year of probation.

"Juvenile justice fines also lead to youth incarceration," the brief said, citing the case of a 13-year-old Arkansas youth who reported having to spend three months in a locked juvenile facility because he could not pay a $500 fine for truancy from school.

The law center's brief also details concerns about juvenile justice fines aggravating racial disparities in the system, and about juveniles or their families having to pay the costs of incarceration.

After Wednesday's decision in the Timbs case, the Juvenile Law Center tweeted, "This is a victory in the fight for #debtfreejustice. ... We are thrilled to hear this news."