After the Criminal Fine Enforcement Act of 1984--Some Issues Still Need To Be Resolved

Gao ID: GGD-86-2 October 10, 1985

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Department of Justice and Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' (AO) policies and procedures for tracking, monitoring, collecting, and enforcing criminal fines.

GAO found that: (1) many offenders do not pay their fines; (2) there were no formal procedures governing the collection process; (3) probation officers do not obtain financial information to support a conclusion about the offender's financial status; (4) P.L. 98-596 requires the court to consider several factors in determining whether to impose a fine and the amount of the fine, including the defendant's income, earning capacity, and financial resources; and (5) U.S. attorneys' offices do not have the information needed to enforce fine payments because the courts do not routinely provide them with such information. GAO also found that: (1) a procedure is needed to deal with the changes in a offender's ability to adhere to installment payments established by the court; (2) five U.S. attorneys' offices did not have a record of fines imposed for about 40 percent of the fines sampled; (3) both the U.S. Attorneys' Office and the Probation Office are responsible for monitoring fines, but information is not shared between the two offices; (4) criminal fines are not collected promptly and effectively because enforcement techniques are not used to compel payment; (5) Justice guidelines do not provide the U.S. attorney collection units with established requirements as to when and how specific enforcement techniques should be used; and (6) probation offices are required to report to the court on any unpaid fine, but the law does not set a time frame for reporting.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Arnold P. Jones Team: General Accounting Office: General Government Division Phone: (202) 512-7797

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