Most Legal Financial Obligations Eliminated for Washington Juveniles

Fines, fees, and penalties can add up and result in a significant financial impact on criminal defendants and their families.  These legal financial obligations can be particularly burdensome when imposed on juvenile offenders, who in some cases may be too young to work and who often come from low-income families.  If they cannot pay, the outstanding debt may affect the juvenile’s ability to obtain credit, housing, or even a job.

Effective July 1, 2023, the legislature amended the penalty assessment statute, RCW 7.68.035, to remove penalty assessments for juveniles and prohibit penalty assessments under that statute for adult defendants found to be indigent.  The legislature also enacted a new statute, RCW 13.40.058, which provides that a court cannot impose or collect any fine, administrative fee, cost, or surcharge from a juvenile or their parent or guardian in connection with a Washington juvenile offender proceeding. This prohibition specifically includes, but is not limited to DNA collection fees, diversion fees, and victims’ penalty assessments. The result of these two laws is that a court can no longer impose any legal financial obligations on a juvenile, except restitution.

Prior to the amendment, RCW 7.68.035 required the court to impose a $100 penalty assessment for each case or cause of action for a “most serious offense” or a sex offense under RCW chapter 9A.44 for which a juvenile was adjudicated. “Most serous offenses” include class A felonies, second degree assault, first and second degree manslaughter, a felony with a deadly weapon verdict, and other specified offenses.  The amendment also removed the requirement for the court to order up to seven hours of community restitution when a juvenile was adjudicated of an offense with a victim that did not constitute a most serious offense or sex offense, unless the court found the order would not be practicable for the juvenile.

RCW 7.68.035 as amended now provides that the court shall waive a victim penalty assessment imposed prior to July 1, 2023 if the offender was a juvenile or was indigent when the penalty assessment was imposed.  Washington courts have also applied the amendment to cases where the juvenile was sentenced prior to the effective date of the amendment if the case is pending on direct appeal.  See e.g., State v. G.C.

The legislature also amended RCW 13.40.192, which addresses enforceability of restitution and other legal financial obligations for juveniles.  This statute now provides that a judgement against a juvenile for any legal financial obligations other than restitution is not enforceable after the effective date and prohibits superior court clerks from accepting payments from a juvenile who was ordered to pay such legal financial obligations after July 1, 2023.  RCW 13.40.192 specifically includes penalty assessments, fines, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.

Although legal financial obligations other than restitution should no longer be an issue in juvenile cases, an adjudication for even relatively minor charges can have long-lasting effects on your child and their future.  If your child is facing criminal charges, an experienced Washington juvenile defense attorney can fight to help your family and protect your child’s rights.  Call (206) 622-6562 to schedule a consultation with Blair & Kim, PLLC, to discuss your child’s case.


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