In Virginia, for people who are unable to pay their court debt immediately, the debt can grow with the addition of interest. Court debt that is unpaid after 180 days from the resolution of the case or the person’s release from detention, for those not already on a payment plan, will begin to accrue six– percent annual interest. After the initial 180 days, even if you are on a payment plan, missing one payment will send the account into default and interest will accrue.


This ever-growing interest can leave individuals unable to satisfy the debt, owing much more than the original amount assessed by the court. 19.2-353.5


One individual, who was still paying on court debt from 1999, over twenty years later, described the burden of ever-growing court debt as “vicious – it is like a hungry, vicious dog that you can’t get away from. It haunts you.”

Interest is not supposed to grow during incarceration. When someone is incarcerated, interest should be paused. § 19.2-353.5 (B) (ii).


Unfortunately, because there is no uniform reporting system, this does not happen automatically, and individuals must file a petition to have the interest waived in the court(s) where they have outstanding debt.  The Virginia Courts website has a form petition you can use, known as the DC-366a. Along with the petition, an individual seeking to have their interest waived for the period they were incarcerated, must submit a form (the DC-366) certifying their incarceration dates. This form must be filled out by the facility where you were detained.


Each court has their own process for accepting the form. Sometimes, courts require you to appear in-person to have that petition heard.  However, the law says that the courts have to waive this interest when they receive a completed petition. If you have submitted your petition and not heard back, call the Clerk’s office to follow up. 

No. If you are paying the court debtplan established by the court, interest should not accrue. If, however, you miss a payment or are late making a payment (by more than ten days), the court can mark the debt as defaulted, and interest will once again start accruing. If this happens, you can petition the court to reestablish your payment plan. If a new payment plan is established, interest will stop accruing 

In Virginia, all interest collected goes to the Literary Fund. According to the Department of Education, the Literary Fund is a “permanent and perpetual school fund established by the Constitution of Virginia.” and this may be an important government function, but it has no connection to the criminal court system.  

From seeking and maintaining employment and housing, to obtaining public benefits, to meeting financial obligations such as child support, to exercising the right to vote, criminal justice debt is a barrier to individuals seeking to rebuild their lives after a criminal conviction. In the rush to raise revenue, states have not considered whether turning defendants into debtors is consistent with the need to reduce recidivism, reduce over-incarceration, and promote reentry” The Hidden Costs of Criminal Justice Debt, Brennan Center (2010).


These effects of interest accrual can be a hurdle to housing and employment:


  • Court debt is filed with the county clerk and becomes public information available for credit reporting agencies 
  • The credit reports are often used by potential employers for “character screening” tools as well 
  • Garnishment can discourage individuals from “participating in legitimate employment and pushes them towards the underground economy” 
  • Unable to pay other critical costs 


The Solution: Eliminate interest on court debt.


For individuals who can pay off their costs immediately or who can consistently pay on a payment plan, no interest accrues. Unfortunately, the people who are unable to pay consistently or have access to immediate cash funds are often those who struggle the most with ever overcoming court debt. 

Do you have interest that has accrued on court debt? How has it affected you?


Your experience is important, and it can help us in our work to change the system. fight the ongoing imposition of interest in the Commonwealth. If you are willing to share your experience with interest on court debt, please email us at to set up a time for an interview.  

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