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Determining "Ability to Pay"

A defendant's ability to pay should be a considered in all sentences involving Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs). Many circumstances or conditions contribute to an ability to pay determination, but sentencing considerations are principally determined by

  • Whether a defendant receives services that satisfy an indigency determination
  • Financial condition and supporting documentation that demonstrate fines and fees above a certain level would be overly onerous


If you are preparing a petition for post-conviction relief, review the info below. If you receive benefits from any of the below services or meet the financial conditions, collect any relevant documentation for formal submission via the LFO Post-Conviction Relief tool

Support Programs and Services

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a federally-funded, state-administered program to provide families with financial assistance and support services.

In Washington State, residents who are responsible for the care of children or who are pregnant are eligible for TANF.

Apply for TANF (or see if you're eligible)

Those caring for a relative's child, or legal guardians acting in the place of a parent are also able to apply for TANF benefits through the Non-Needy Relative, In Loco Parentis and Legal Guardian Program.

Or visit a local support office.

Aged, blind, or disabled assistance benefits

Medical Care Benefits under RCW 74.09.035

Pregnancy assistance

Food stamps

(or food stamp benefits transferred electronically)

Refugee resettlement benefits


Supplemental security income

Involuntarily commitment to a public mental health facility

Income and financial condition documentation

Annual income

Employment status