For the past 45 years, Pennsylvania courts have been prohibited from imposing fines that defendants cannot afford to pay, as a way to ensure that they are not saddled with unfordable court debt. But does this requirement apply if a defendant pleads guilty? The Lancaster County District Attorney seeks to upend decades of case law and say that the 96% of defendants who plead guilty must pay a fine regardless of their financial circumstances. The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed an amicus curiae brief  to explain why it makes no sense to try to force a defendant to pay money he cannot afford, whether those are fines or court costs. 


Andrew Christy (ACLU-PA

Date filed

November 1, 2018


Pennsylvania Supreme Court