Michigan’s “Pay or Stay” Practices Are Improper

Here in Michigan, it was common for individuals to receive a “pay or stay” sentence by a court when they faced punishment for a crime. The idea behind “pay or stay” sentencings focused on collecting the enforced fines and costs that were levied by the court at the time of sentencing. If an individual was unable to pay the fines and costs ordered by the court, the individual would be subject to incarceration, hence the “pay or stay” phrase used to describe the practice. Recently, the Michigan Supreme Court essentially outlawed this “pay or stay” practice by requiring courts to hold a hearing to determine whether the individual could afford the fines and costs or made good-faith efforts to pay such ordered monies. The reasoning behind enforcing the required hearing was to maintain constitutionality for those who are determined or found to be indigent and unable to pay the fines and costs.

Let’s explain this with example: Defendant is found responsible or guilty for a criminal act or traffic infraction of some kind, and at sentencing the judge orders the Defendant to pay a specific amount of fines and costs. This particular Defendant has a low income job and numerous bills and responsibilities that essentially make it difficult for him to live day by day. He has ever want and intent to pay the fines and costs ordered by the court; however, he literally is unable to financially afford those monies because of his debt to income ratio. Under a “pay or stay” scheme this individual would be going to jail for his failure to pay the monies ordered. Under the Michigan Supreme Court change, the Court must determine whether this Defendant is indigent, and if he is found to be indigent the Court necessarily cannot just throw him in jail. This is especially true when the individual has made good-faith efforts to pay the ordered monies, and thus the “pay or stay” policy is no longer valid procedure here in Michigan.

Even though the “pay or stay” practice cannot be followed without first making some determination on the individual’s ability to pay, Courts still seem to be attempting to enforce and use such practices. Because of this, it is vital to always obtain counsel and representation, even if court appointed, in order ensure that your rights are being protected. The “pay or stay” policy puts individual in a very sticky and difficult situation, which is why you must do all that you can to protect your freedom. Those in a financially difficult position cannot risk losing employment, so instead of being alone lawyer-up so you have someone standing and fighting with you. Remember, never rely on this website or any information found on the internet or any other website when wanting or intending to represent yourself before any court, legal body or otherwise here in Michigan or throughout the United States. Always obtain adequate and legal representation.

About Josh Jones

Josh Jones is an experienced and professional Michigan Criminal Defense attorney presenting Metro Detroit, Genesee County, Livingston County, Lapeer County, and others throughout the State of Michigan. He is available 7-days a week and handles all felonies, misdemeanors, probation violations, traffic tickets, and drivers license restoration. Josh is only a phone call away and is here to help when you are involved with the criminal justice system.