Court says California violates rights of poor defendants by imposing fees

California is violating the rights of poor defendants by attaching fees to misdemeanor criminal convictions regardless of their ability to pay, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles singled out payments imposed by state law to help fund court operations and maintain a statewide restitution fund for crime victims. The fees, totaling $220, were charged to a homeless woman convicted of driving with a license that had been suspended — because of unpaid fees from traffic tickets she had received years earlier as a teenager — and were referred to a collection agency when she couldn’t pay them.

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