ACLU-PA Position: Supports
SB 1208 is the product of collaborative negotiations to make critical changes to SB 516, which Governor Wolf vetoed earlier this session.
SB 1208 would amend 42 Pa. C.S. § 9730 to allow for unpaid fines, costs, and restitution in magisterial district and common pleas courts to be referred to a debt collection agency or the county’s collection enforcement unit when a defendant fails to appear. Importantly, SB 1208 also includes:
- Crucial due process protections before referring cases to private debt collection;
- Permission for courts to waive or reduce fines or costs for indigent defendants;
- Limitations on adverse credit reporting by requiring that defendants first get a hearing and are found able to pay; and
- Uniform payment options across Pennsylvania’s courts.
SB 1208 would provide counties and courts with a new tool to help them collect outstanding court debt without sacrificing the due process rights of indigent defendants. And by offering enhanced provisions to give judges and defendants greater flexibility and more options, SB 1208 would help counties focus on collectible debt while making it easier for some defendants to pay off their debt.