A recent Superior Court case, and contemporaneous guidance offered by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, has revealed new and convenient ways to make in court payments when you do not have the necessary money on the day of court, often in the form of monthly installments. This is a major improvement to prior methods of payment plans, and a welcome development in the criminal justice field.
Previously, Courts did not have this kind of guidance, so there was a patchwork of payment plans and often defendants would feel their privacy invaded as Judges began asking about their finances and their work in court. Furthermore, payment plans were often only allowed after first demonstrating either indigency or a logistical problem with access to funds on the day of court.
Now, the payment plans have been standardized across the state, and the changes provide greater convenience. Time payments, and delayed payments, are to be made broadly available, and defendants will only need to fill out an Indigency Questionnaire if they need further individualized payments, meaning fewer will need to fill these tedious questionnaires out.
The new structure for the payment system is as follows:
|Range of Financial Obligation||Monthly Installments|
|$0-$100||3 Equal payments|
|$100.01-$200||Up to 6 equal payments|
|$200.01-$300||Up to 9 equal payments|
|$300.01-$400||Up to 12 equal payments|
|$400.01-$500||Up to 15 equal payments|
|Greater than $500||Up to 20 equal payments, whenever possible|
If a defendant indicates that they cannot fall within the constraints above, they will need to fill out the Financial Questionnaire to Establish Indigency. However, despite this, any payment plan should be given liberally to defendants, and should be made so they can be satisfied with minimal court involvement.
Additionally, there are payment alternatives which are available to defendants who default on time payment plans and do not have the ability to pay. Now the court could consider these alternatives to payment:
• Reduce, modify, or suspend the penalty
• Order that credit be given against the amount owed for each day of confinement, in the case that the defendant has served jail time for the default
• Revoke the unpaid portion of penalty, if the court finds that the circumstances that warranted the penalty have changed, or it would be unjust to require the payment
• Order the defendant to do community service instead of payment
• Impose another alternative as permitted by law
Finally, Courts are encouraged to work liberally with defendants who provide justification to modify their time payment plan, seek payment alternatives, or seek to modify their payment alternative to ensure that the are reasonable and achievable.
Courts have come a long way in making sure people can reasonably pay, and our offices are always fighting so our clients are given payment plans that fit their financial situation.