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Statehouse measure would cushion offenders from court-mandated fees, proponents say

Joe Mahoney, CNHI State Reporter
Posted 1/7/23

Progressive Democrats in the state Legislature have opened a push to relieve individuals convicted of crimes from being compelled to pay fees and surcharges.

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Statehouse measure would cushion offenders from court-mandated fees, proponents say


Progressive Democrats in the state Legislature have opened a push to relieve individuals convicted of crimes from being compelled to pay fees and surcharges including ones that help fund the state DNA databank, parole supervision and New York’s sex offender registry.

Those advocating for the changes argue the fees are onerous on low-income individuals and have contributed to what they call “mass incarceration” in New York.

“The legislative intent is also to end New York’s regressive reliance on generating governmental revenue by imposing surcharges, fees and fines on those least able to pay,” states a bill authored by state Sen. Julia Salazar, D-Brooklyn.

Her measure has 21 co-sponsors, including Sens. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, the deputy leader of the Senate, and Liz Krueger, the influential chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill is already getting some pushback from law enforcement officials and Republicans.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Erie County, ranking member of the Senate Crime and Correction Committee, said he believes there is merit to some aspects of the bill, namely its focus on fees and surcharges, noting he would welcome a discussion on those issues. But he stated they should be considered separately from fines, which have a punitive intent.

Gallivan, in an interview with CNHI,, also said he found the potential consequences of the legislation troubling.

“Who should be paying (for the DNA databank, the sex offender registry and parole supervision) if the defendant is not charged a fee for anything?” Gallivan said. “The victim and law-abiding citizens and taxpayers are left holding the bag for everything, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

In a statement provided to CNHI, Salazar said: “The criminalization of poverty through the existence of mandatory court surcharges, fees, and mandatory minimum fines is a draconian practice that we are fighting to end with the End Predatory Court Fees Act. These harmful policies disproportionately impact people with low incomes and weaken what limited financial resources that folks have available to them.”

The chair of the Senate Committee on Crime and Correction, Salazar added: “Interactions with the criminal legal system are already difficult and stressful without the added burden of predatory court fees.”

According to the legislation, the measure, if enacted, would result in the vacating of all warrants and civil judgments lodged against offenders based solely on their failure to pay fees and surcharges, including warrants arising from failure to pay DNA databank and sex offender registry fees.

According to state documents, the DNA databank operated by State Police in collaboration with the Division of Criminal Justice Services gets offender DNA samples provided after a plea agreement or as a condition of participation in a prison temporary release program, as well as those participating in shock incarceration, alcohol and substance abuse treatment or have parole or probation conditions to provide a sample.

In New York, any offender convicted of a felony or misdemeanor since 2012 has been required to provide a DNA sample. The DNA database is used by police to look for DNA matches from crime scenes. Courts require the offenders to pay a fee.

Staffers at the state Division of the Budget, an agency controlled by Gov. Kathy Hochul, did not respond to questions seeking public information about the sums collected by the state from offenders for maintaining the DNA database and the sex offender registry.

Peter Kehoe, executive director of the New York Sheriffs Association, told CNHI he is disappointed that the legislation to relieve offenders from fee and surcharge mandates has become a priority for some lawmakers at the statehouse as they open the 2023 session at the statehouse.

“This is another example of the legislature spending their time and effort on finding ways to make life easier for the
criminals at the expense of the taxpayers,” Kehoe said.

Kehoe noted the crimes committed by the offenders and resulting in their introduction into the criminal justice system spawns a variety of costs to the public, such as those arising for administering the sex offender registry and monitoring the offenders when they are released into communities.

Contacted in Delhi, Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond echoed Kehoe’s frustration. “It’s another sign to the criminals that there is no accountability for anything they do,” DuMond said. “It’s staggering.”

But the New York Civil Liberties Union, in supporting the legislation, argues the system of fees on offenders “encourages policing for profit and keeps people trapped in poverty.”

Gallivan is advancing a bill that would remove persons convicted of murdering police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, paramedics and other emergency responders from eligibility for a gubernatorial commutation of their sentence of life without parole.

Gallivan said when those convicted of such crimes complete lengthy educational programs they can live out their lives behind bars assisting other convicts in pursuit of their goals. Governors, he said, should not have the ability to derail the sentences imposed by the trial judges in such cases.

Over the past decade, the New York City Police Benevolent Association, representing officers in the nation’s largest municipal police force, has strenuously protested the parole releases of numerous felons convicted of killing police officers in the line of duty.


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