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Chapel Hill to provide assistance for unpaid court fees

Post Date:05/07/2020 3:43 PM

CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEBT PROGRAMChapel Hill residents unable to afford court fees and costs are now able to apply for relief through the Criminal Justice Debt Program at the Town of Chapel Hill.

Applications are now being accepted at The application will soon be available in Spanish, Mandarin, Burmese and Karen. 

The Town of Chapel Hill initiated the pilot program to assist low-income people and to attempt to address the racial inequities of the criminal justice system. Failure to pay court costs harms low-income people when penalties, including suspended driver’s licenses and user fees, lead to lost jobs and other hardships. People of color are disproportionately impacted. Research shows that court fees and costs have created oppressive systems for people with limited resources and exacerbated inequities.


Applying for Assistance

Residents of Chapel Hill interested in applying for relief through the program can apply at or print a hard copy of the application (link to “Criminal Justice Debt Program Application” in Document Central under Police - Crisis Unit). 

In order to be considered eligible for relief, applicants:

  • Must live within the municipal limits of the Town of Chapel Hill (if you are unsure whether you live within the town limits, please call 919-968-2806 for assistance)
  • Must meet court indigency standards
  • Cannot be currently incarcerated
  • Must have outstanding criminal justice or traffic fees or costs from Orange County or the NCDMV
  • Must demonstrate that he or she is on the road to stability
  • Must have already pursued other avenues for debt relief (e.g., driver’s license restoration program)
  • Must demonstrate that assistance will have an immediate impact on his or her stability or successful reentry into the community


Relief will be considered for post-conviction court fees and costs, deferred prosecution court fees and costs, and NCDMV license restoration fees. Fines and restitution payments imposed as part of sentencing and individuals convicted of violent felonies will not be eligible for the fund. An individual will only be eligible to receive assistance from the fund once every three years.

Program Background

Adopted unanimously by the Chapel Hill Town Council on Jan. 22, 2020 (view the Council meeting video at, the Criminal Justice Debt Program is expected to become a model for other municipalities. Council members Karen Stegman, Allen Buansi and Mayor pro tem Michael Parker proposed the program, with input from the Orange County Criminal Justice Resource Department.

The Chapel Hill Police Department’s Crisis Unit is administering the program, and an advisory committee will meet quarterly to review applications and make recommendations. The advisory committee includes members from the Community Empowerment Fund, IFC, Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, NAACP Legal Redress Committee, El Centro Hispano, an impacted community member, a victims advocate representative, a re-entry case manager, the Clerk of Courts office, and legal counsel.

More Information

If you have any questions about the application or program requirements, please contact the Chapel Hill Police Crisis Unit at 919-968-2806.


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