March 11, 2021

The Consequences of a Broken Revenue System: Relying on Fines and Fees is Harming Florida’s Clerks of Courts

Executive Summary 

The collection of court fines and fees, which fluctuates with economic disruptions, natural disasters, and policy changes at other state agencies, is an unstable revenue source for Florida’s clerks of courts. Furthermore, the state’s use of driver’s license suspension as a compliance tool has created barriers to economic mobility and stable employment for Floridians with low income.   

Florida Policy Institute (FPI) analyzed the annual budgets of Florida’s clerks of courts and county-level data on both driver’s license suspensions and fines and fees collections, and found that:

  • Revenue from fines and fees has been on a downward trend for the past decade, particularly between (CFY) 2013-14 and CFY 2017-18, when clerks’ budgets saw a $63 million cut.
  • Fines and fees from traffic citations are the largest revenue stream for the clerks of courts, and a large portion of criminal case expenditures are funded through traffic collections and filing costs. 
  • Driver’s license suspension is an ineffective method of enforcement, with the latest data showing an only 20 percent collections rate statewide. Furthermore, driver’s license suspension disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities.

The report recommends implementing long-term revenue-raising solutions, such as closing corporate tax loopholes and modernizing enforcement of online sales tax collection, to provide alternative sources of revenue to fund clerks of courts’ budgets; FPI also recommends eliminating driver’s license suspension as an enforcement tool and standardizing payment plan options, which vary greatly across counties.

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