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Uncollected criminal fines may be lower than originally believed

NATCHEZ A lot of people owe criminal fines to Adams County, but the total amount owed may be much lower than has been previously believed.

Adams County Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess has previously stated to the Adams County Board of Supervisors that as much as $3.8 million in uncollected criminal fines were owed to the county. In order to collect the back fees, Vess and the other justice court judge, Patricia Dunmore, have in recent months been holding contempt of court hearings for those who had failed to pay their fines.

But Justice Court Clerk Audrey Bailey said that, based on a computer report she ran Friday tracing back fines to 1985, when Adams County started entering criminal proceedings into a computer system, the number of owed fines did not total $3.8 million.

The amount instead came to $1,728,855.45, she said.

Vess said he met with Bailey Friday and has no reason to doubt the new number.

The $3.8 million number he had previously been working with was based on information he got from a computer disc the county provides its collection agency, Receivable Solutions Specialists, on a quarterly basis, Vess said.

“I had no reason to believe those figures weren’t accurate, but (Bailey’s) numbers were based on an audit report,” he said. “I am going to say (Bailey’s numbers) may be right.”

“The figures (from the disc) I thought were accurate because it came from the county.”

The judge said that while the new numbers reflect a lower balance of outstanding fines, he would continue to seek to get what is owed the county.

“Even if this audit shows something less, it is certainly a lot of money, and we are making a good effort to collect it,” he said. “Either way is a win-win situation.”

Bailey said many of the outstanding fines dating back to 1985 are owed by those who live out-of-state, and that the court was trying to find a way to collect those funds.

The report Bailey generated Friday also shows that the court collected a total of $2,741,239.86 in criminal fees between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2013.