Vidalia police crack down on back fines

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2000

VIDALIA, La. — Vidalia police are getting ready to serve arrest warrants on people that owe the department back fines — in some cases, fines that should have been paid one to two years ago.

&uot;Some of these are people who really have fallen on hard times and couldn’t pay them,&uot; said Police Chief Billy Hammers. &uot;Others probably honestly forgot to pay them. Then there are others who think they can get away with not paying it.&uot;

Think again. Hammers is issuing a public warning to offenders to pay their back fines now — or have warrants served on them in the next two weeks.

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&uot;This way, they can’t say they haven’t been warned,&uot; he said.

Hammers said the department has at least 50 warrants to serve. The department went through its files less than three months ago to see who had not paid their back fines.

But probation officer Butch Wilson, who usually reviews those files, also commands the parish’s Drug Task Force, which has been busier than usual in recent weeks, Hammers said.

As a result, Wilson has not been able to get back to reviewing the files until now. &uot;And we try to work with people who can’t pay their fines all at once,&uot; Hammers said.

Although Vidalia police only serve warrants for misdemeanors — the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office serves felony warrants — the fines can be substantial. For example, while a person’s first driving while intoxicated offense is a misdemeanor, the fine for that offense is $500.

&uot;And if you don’t appear in court and the judge (City Court Judge George Murray) has to issue a bench warrant for you, that can be another $100 to $500,&uot;&160;Hammers said.

Money received from fines go to the Town of Vidalia, not directly to the Police Department.