Document Type

Undergraduate Research Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Paper Status



After criminal offenders are convicted of a crime, they must return to the court where a judge will determine their sentence. Sentencing often includes jail time, but it always includes monetary penalties, or Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs). There are many reasons these penalties are given, from restitution for the victims of criminal offenses, to providing government revenue and funding the court, to punishment for the offender. However, these fines, and the interest rates that come with them, often leave offenders with an enormous amount of debt. There are a lot of interests at stake when it comes to LFO sentencing and collection. Courts need to be funded, defendants want to be able to get on with their lives after interacting with the criminal justice system, and people deserve to have a criminal justice system that works for the benefit of society. This paper will demonstrate why the current system of LFO sentencing does an inadequate job at satisfying these interests, and what can be done about it.


Winner of the 2022 short-form paper prize