Monetary sanctions have long been a part of the U.S. criminal jus- tice system but have received increasing attention from the public as well as legal scholars and social science research in recent years. This essay describes initial findings from the Multi-State Study of Monetary Sanctions, a multi-method study designed to build on the prior research on legal financial obligations (LFOs) by examining the multi-tiered sys- tems of monetary sanctions operating within eight states representing key regions of the United States (California, Georgia, Illinois, Minneso- ta, Missouri, New York, Texas and Washington). Our research explores the constantly changing legal environment and documents how the law is practiced on the ground. We expand on prior research by engaging a large and diverse group of people who owe legal debt and criminal justice stakeholders. We augment these data with systematic court ob- servations across different jurisdiction sizes and court levels. In doing so, we fill important gaps in the current understanding of U.S. systems of monetary and provide findings that can be used for guiding policy.

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