Court Rules Amended to Encompass Ability to Pay

The Michigan Supreme Court has amended the court rules to reflect current case law regarding incarcerating a defendant for nonpayment of fines, costs, and fees.  A key change is the addition of subsection (3) to Mich. Ct. R. 6.425 prohibiting revocation of probation or incarceration for nonpayment unless a court finds that a defendant could comply with a payment order “without manifest hardship,” and that the defendant has not made a good-faith effort to comply with the order.

Where a defendant cannot comply with an order without manifest hardship, then a court may order an alternative such as a payment plan, a modification of an existing payment plan, or waiver of the money owed.  There are six criteria a court must consider in determining manifest hardship: (1) the defendant’s employment status and history; (2) the defendant’s employability and earning ability; (3) the willfulness of a failure to pay; (4) the defendant’s financial resources; (5) the defendant’s living expenses; and (6) “any other special circumstances that may have bearing on the defendant’s ability to pay.”

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor