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Fines, Costs, Bail Assessments, and Criminal Debt

Fines, Costs, Bail Assessments, and Criminal Debt

In 2011, the city began attempting to collect old, criminal debt dating as far back as 1971.  This debt can consist of costs, fines, and restitution related to convictions, probation supervision fees, and bail assessments when the city claims someone has missed a court date.  After a certain period of time, debts are sent to a collections agency.  After that, debts may be sent to a law firm for further collection efforts.  Advocates at Community Legal Services have been working with the courts to ensure that the new court payment system is implemented in a way that is fair to low-income individuals. The system is complicated, and it remains in development.

However, you have the right to a payment plan that you can afford.  You can get on one by going to a Payment Plan Conference Room in room 004 in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center at 1301 Filbert Street from 10:30am - 4pm any day of the week.  When you go, only agree to a payment amount per month that you can afford.  If you disagree with the overall amount that the court system claims that you owe, consider getting legal advice (see flyer below).  The consequences of not being current with a payment plan include: loss of certain public benefits; wage garnishment; lien on property, and possibly Sheriff’s Sale; frozen bank accounts; ineligibility for expungement and/or pardon; and more.

If you owe money related to a bail assessment, consider asking for legal help to challenge the bail judgment.  CLS attorneys may be able to help you fight bail judgments.  Consider coming to CLS for intake if you want help with filing a bail petition and in your bail hearing.   You may be entitled to a reduction or total vacation of the bail assessment, which could significantly reduce the amount that you owe.

Note: Bail from cases before March 2010 has been eliminated by order of the Court of Common Pleas.  The court is still in the process of removing these old bail cases from people’s records and should be done in early 2015.  Please click here for more information.

How to get help:

Walk-in Intake

Community Legal Services
Center City Office

1424 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Community Legal Services
North Philadelphia Law Center

1410 West Erie Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19140
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
9:00 am -12:00 pm