Even if you hire an attorney who is able to get your case dismissed, you
will still have to pay the attorney's legal fee. If your attorney
works out a reduction of the charge (for example, if he obtains a deal
for a "wet" reckless instead of a DUI), you will also have to
pay a fine associated with the charge for which you are ultimately convicted.
For example, here in Kern County, the fine for a misdemeanor driving under
the influence of alcohol/drugs case currently totals $1,930 once all the
court fees and penalty assessments are totaled. A "wet" reckless
fine will set you back about $1,200. Most crimes carry with them a fine
of at least $500 and many are over $1,000. Here in California, even traffic
tickets are notoriously expensive; for instance, the fine for running
a red light is more than $500.
While these fees are technically considered due in full the day you are
convicted, a payment plan can be set up if your situation calls for it.
You may however, be required to prove your income to the court in order
to show why you qualify for a particular payment plan.
For some people, the fines and fees are almost a worse punishment than
a conviction, and even making monthly payments is out of the question.
In such situations, a knowledgeable attorney will advise of the alternatives
to paying these hefty fines. In Kern County, these alternatives include
Community Service is a flexible option that allows an individual to do
volunteer work at places such as Goodwill, Animal Shelters, or local churches.
The number of hours one must serve will largely depend upon the amount
of the fine being worked off, but generally speaking, the conversion rate
is 8 hours for every $100.
Work release is administered by the Kern County Sheriff's Department
and allows an individual to work off their fine by doing manual labor
(usually cleaning up) around local government buildings. Importantly,
work release is technically an alternative to a jail sentence, so if an
individual signs up for work release and then decides not to do it, he
will be obligated to do that time in jail instead unless his attorney
can convince the court to convert the sentence back to a fine or to community service.
Both of these programs can usually be scheduled around a person's work hours.
NOTE: Converting a fine to either community service or work release will
eliminate a large portion of the fine, but will often leave up to about
$300 in non-waivable fines, depending upon the offense the individual
is convicted of. Additionally, both community service and work release
also charge an administrative fee. While these costs are substantially
less than the court fines, they must still be taken into consideration.
While these alternatives are potential options, they are not a guarantee
in every situation, particularly in light of California's budgetary
constraints which have given courts an incentive to make individuals pay
their fines in full. If someone wishes to pursue either community service
or work release, a skilled attorney will frame this request to the Judge
in the best possible light in order to get the court to grant it and will
work to get the fine converted to the lowest number of hours or days possible.