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Searching 2023-2024 Session

The Vermont Statutes Online

The Vermont Statutes Online have been updated to include the actions of the 2023 session of the General Assembly.

NOTE: The Vermont Statutes Online is an unofficial copy of the Vermont Statutes Annotated that is provided as a convenience.

Title 13 : Crimes and Criminal Procedure

Chapter 223 : Fines, Costs, and Penalties

Subchapter 002 : Imprisonment in Lieu of Payment of Fines and Costs

(Cite as: 13 V.S.A. § 7180)
  • § 7180. Remedies for failure to pay fines, costs, surcharges, and penalties

    (a) As used in this section:

    (1) “Amount due” means all financial assessments, including penalties, fines, surcharges, court costs, and any other assessments imposed by statute as part of a sentence for a criminal conviction.

    (2) “Designated collection agency” means a collection agency designated by the Court Administrator pursuant to subsection 7171(b) of this title.

    (3) “Designated credit bureau” means a credit bureau designated by the Court Administrator or the Court Administrator’s designee.

    (b) Collection of amount due. If an amount due remains unpaid for 75 days after the court provides the defendant with a notice of judgment, the court may refer the matter to a designated collection agency or initiate civil contempt proceedings pursuant to this section.

    (c) Civil contempt proceeding.

    (1) Notice of hearing. The court shall provide notice by first-class mail sent to the defendant’s last known address that a contempt hearing will be held pursuant to this subsection, and that failure to appear at the contempt hearing may result in the sanctions listed in subdivision (2) of this subsection.

    (2) Failure to appear. If the defendant fails to appear at the contempt hearing, the court may direct the clerk to:

    (A) Cause the matter to be reported to one or more designated credit bureaus.

    (B) Issue a judicial summons ordering the defendant to appear in district court.

    (C) Issue an arrest warrant if the defendant fails to appear in response to the judicial summons. The arrest warrant shall be limited to arrest during court hours only and order that the defendant be brought immediately to court.

    (3) Hearing. The hearing shall be conducted in a summary manner. The court shall examine the defendant and any other witnesses and may require the defendant to produce documents relevant to the defendant’s ability to pay the amount due. Evidence is admissible if it is of a type commonly relied upon by a reasonably prudent person in the conduct of his or her affairs. The Vermont Rules of Evidence shall not apply except that the rules related to privilege shall apply. The State shall not be a party except with the permission of the court. The defendant may be represented by counsel at the defendant’s own expense.

    (4) Contempt.

    (A) The court may conclude that the defendant is in contempt if the court finds that:

    (i) the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that he or she owed the amount due;

    (ii) the defendant had the ability to pay all or any portion of the amount due; and

    (iii) the defendant failed to pay all or any portion of the amount due.

    (B) If the court concludes that the defendant is in contempt, the court may:

    (i) Order payment of the amount due on a specific date.

    (ii) Assess an additional penalty not to exceed ten percent of the amount due.

    (iii) Direct that the matter be reported to one or more designated credit bureaus. The Court Administrator or the Court Administrator’s designee is authorized to contract with one or more credit bureaus for the purpose of reporting information about unpaid Judicial Bureau judgments.

    (iv) Refer to Small Claims Court for the purpose of issuing writs of attachment for property and trustee process pursuant to 12 V.S.A. § 5534. Filing fees shall be waived in such cases.

    (v) Sentence the defendant to serve a term of imprisonment on furlough to participate in a program supervised by the Department of Corrections pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808(a) that provides reparation to the community in the form of supervised work activities. For each day the defendant participates in supervised work activities, the defendant shall be given credit against the amount owed at the hourly rate for minimum wage. A defendant who is determined by the Department of Corrections to be ineligible for the preapproved furlough supervised work program may be ordered by the court to serve a sentence in a correctional facility, in which event the defendant shall be given credit against the amount owed for every day served at a rate determined by the court.

    (C) If the court concludes that the defendant is not in contempt because the defendant does not have the ability to pay the amount due, the court may:

    (i) suspend all or any part of the amount due in the interests of justice, except that the court may not waive surcharges imposed pursuant to section 7282 of this title;

    (ii) order the defendant to participate in the Restorative Justice Program conducted by a community reparative board and direct the reparative board to determine an appropriate amount of community service to be performed in lieu of all or part of the amount due.

    (d) For purposes of civil contempt proceedings, the venue shall be statewide.

    (e) Notwithstanding 32 V.S.A. § 502, the Court Administrator is authorized to contract with a third party to collect fines, penalties, and fees by credit card, debit card, charge card, prepaid card, stored value card, and direct bank account withdrawals or transfers, as authorized by 32 V.S.A. § 583, and to add on and collect or charge against collections a processing charge in an amount approved by the Court Administrator.

    (f)(1) A defendant who is not incarcerated may file a motion to convert all or part of a traffic offense fine to community service. The court may grant the motion if the defendant establishes that he or she has made a good faith effort to pay the fine but is unable to do so. A fine converted to community service pursuant to this subsection shall not be considered a modification of sentence and shall not be subject to the time limits of Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 35.

    (2) Community service performed pursuant to a motion granted under this subsection shall be:

    (A) credited against outstanding fines at the then-existing rate of the Vermont minimum wage:

    (B) monitored by Diversion, a restorative justice panel of a community justice center, or a similar entity approved by the court, that shall report on the defendant’s compliance status to the court;

    (C) performed in the county where the offense occurred.

    (3) A conversion of a fine to community service under this subsection:

    (A) shall not apply to surcharges, court costs, or other assessments;

    (B) shall be in addition to the contempt procedures applicable under this section. (Added 2009, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § D3; amended 2015, No. 58, § E.204.6, eff. June 11, 2015.)