Criminal Justice

The U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately burdens low-income individuals and people of color, as well as their families and communities.

Collection Actions

Collection Actions

Details consumer defenses to debt buyer and creditor collection lawsuits on credit card, medical, and other consumer debts.

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The National Consumer Law Center focuses on the intersection of criminal and consumer law, and their role in equitable criminal justice reform.

Criminal Background Checks

Criminal Justice Debt

New! Confronting Criminal Justice Debt Free Webinar Series Fall 2017 (cosponsored by The National Consumer Law Center and the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School):

  • Confronting Criminal Justice Debt: Introduction and Impact on Communities of Color, Oct. 4, 2017
    America's justice system is increasingly financed by the imposition of heavy fines, fees, and costs on individuals accused of crimes and civil infractions. The costs are disproportionately born by the poor and people of color. This webinar will provide an overview of criminal justice debt as an urgent racial justice problem. It will outline key policy reforms and provide an overview of consumer, constitutional, and criminal litigation issues that arise with criminal justice debt. REGISTER
  • The Advocacy Gap: Meeting the Urgent Need for Counsel to Represent Individuals in Criminal Debt Proceedings, Oct. 10, 2017
    Too often, individuals who owe criminal justice debt lack counsel who can help them navigate the system and avoid the severe penalties often imposed for nonpayment-from garnishment to suspension of a driver's license to incarceration. This webinar will discuss the advocacy gap, ways in which civil attorneys can provide impactful representation, opportunities and limitations that civil legal aid-funded attorneys face, and legal and policy arguments for a right to counsel. REGISTER
  • Using Bankruptcy Law to Aid Criminal Justice Debtors, Oct. 17, 2017
    For criminal justice debtors, bankruptcy can be a powerful tool. It can eliminate the obligation to repay certain criminal justice debts or provide an orderly mechanism for repaying certain debts that cannot be discharged. Bankruptcy can also open the door to relief, such as expungement, record sealing, or restoration of a driver's license, that may otherwise be unavailable due to outstanding criminal debt. This webinar provides an overview of the application of bankruptcy law to criminal justice debt. REGISTER
  • Introduction to Harvard's Criminal Justice Policy Program's 50-State Criminal Justice Debt Law Web Tool (Date/Time TBD)
    This webinar will provide an introduction to the web tool-the 50-State Criminal Justice Debt Reform Builder-and showcase ways to use it effectively for research and for work toward criminal justice debt policy reform.
  • Ensuring that People Are Not Jailed Due to Poverty: Reforming Policies and Representing Clients in Criminal Justice Debt "Ability to Pay" Proceedings (Date/Time TBD)
    The Constitution prohibits jailing defendants for non-payment of debts they cannot afford but too often courts fail to conduct adequate "ability to pay" proceedings and unrepresented individuals are sent to jail simply because they are too poor to pay a fee. This webinar discusses both effective representation of individuals in ability to pay proceedings and best practices for ability to pay determinations that advocates should promote in policy reform.
  • Affirmative Litigation of Criminal Justice Debt Abuses-Theory and Practice (Date/Time TBD)
    Lawsuits are currently challenging harsh criminal justice debt collection practices, including "debtor's prisons" and automatic license suspensions. This webinar will discuss litigation strategies and challenges when pursuing affirmative claims against harsh criminal justice debt collection practices, and will encourage participants to incorporate consumer and constitutional law insights to their work.
(​Sign up to be notified for future NCLC webinars; review archived webinars)
 For Attorneys:

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Continuing updates and additional information concerning criminal justice debt will be available for subscribers to this legal treatise. 

Bankruptcy bookConsumer Bankruptcy Law and Practice Credit Discrimination bookCredit Discrimination Fair Credit bookFair Credit Reporting Fair Debt Collection bookFair Debt Collection
 For Consumers:
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