Washington v. Clerk for Marion County, Florida - Fairness demands that the state not sanction a person for something beyond his control.  This principle lies at the heart of Section 28.246(4), Fla. Stat.  When a criminal defendant cannot pay afford to pay in a single payment all of the court costs and fines (legal financial obligations or “LFOs”), the law permits him to pay what he can over time.  This payment plan saves him from suffering the usual consequence of unpaid LFOs—a suspension of driver’s license.

The Marion Clerk, however, does not see § 28.246(4), Fla. Stat., the same way.  Instead of considering what a person is able to pay, his policy sets payment plan installments based on what he owes.  Pursuant to this policy, he initially calculated Washington’s monthly installments to exceed $8,500, an amount out of the reach of all but the most wealthy.  Later, the Clerk arbitrarily proposed $75 per month.  But for a person with modest income and facing barriers to re-enter society after prison, this too is beyond his abilities.

Washington sued the clerk for refusing to enroll Washington on a reasonable and affordable payment plan in violation of the spirit and the letter of § 28.246(4), Fla. Stat.