Fines, penalties and probation sending many into debt

On behalf of The Rollins Law Firm posted in Personal Bankruptcy on Friday, July 13, 2012.

Families across Mississippi have been struggling to make ends meet for years. Many have lost their homes and jobs as a result of medical bills and other ballooning expenses. With fines and penalties mounting, people may want to consider filing for bankruptcy protection to try and get out from under it all.

One culprit that can lead to debt might start with something as small as a speeding ticket. For example, a woman was issued a ticket for speeding and then had her license revoked when she missed her court date. She then incurred more fees when she was pulled over and fined for driving without a license. What started as a $179 fine swelled into more than $1,500 which she could not pay. She was placed on probation. The problem was that the probation company was a for-profit company who then jailed her and fined her for every day in jail, perpetuating the cycle.

The concept of these for-profit probation companies has many people understandably concerned. Often, a person is handed over to these businesses when they are unable to pay for fines or tickets they have. When they continue to be unable to pay, the probation company sends a person to jail, and may also assess their own enrollment and monthly fees. To make matters worse, a person may lose their job if they are thrown in jail, which causes further financial damage.

This practice of jailing people for failure to pay is unconstitutional. The fact that these probation companies are private, however, has presented a gray area which people have taken advantage of. These fees for probation are affecting people with little or no income the most. The smaller a person's income is, the less significant that an infraction has to be before a person faces consequences.

The ongoing harassment and aggressive phone calls by these probation companies mimic the tactics of many other types of bill collectors. They try to squeeze as much money out of a person as possible, even when that person has nothing left to give. Before these expenses, fines and phone calls get out of control, a person may want to speak with a bankruptcy attorney who can help to create a financial plan. With a plan in place, the harassment will stop and a person can feel more confident in moving forward.

Source: The New York Times, "Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation," Ethan Bronner, July 2, 2012

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