Wilkinson circuit court managing fines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2003

WOODVILLE &045; While Wilkinson County officials struggle to find ways to collect a huge balance of delinquent justice court fines, Circuit Clerk Mon Cree Allen says his office is managing its fine collections.

&uot;Our caseload as far as fines is very low.

We don’t have a problem,&uot; Allen said.

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As of March 3, a total of $22,404.50 in fines, assessments and court costs was outstanding, according to figures provided by Allen’s office.

&uot;When defendants are sentenced, they come here and make arrangements to pay,&uot; Allen said.

Not all defendants in circuit court receive fines, and those that do are often placed on probation with suspended prison sentences to discourage them from becoming delinquent.

&uot;Most of them pay on time.

If they don’t pay, we notify the judge and she issues a revocation order to send them to the penitentiary,&uot; Allen said.

But the threat of jail time is not always sufficient to ensure fine collections in county justice courts, which process a much higher volume of cases without the benefit of probation officers to monitor defendants’ compliance with the terms of their sentences.

With many of those cases involving defendants from other counties or states, the use of an outside collection agency is often a viable option.

According to the Office of the State Auditor, state law allows county supervisors to contract with private attorneys or collection agencies to collect justice court fines.

Supervisors may also levy additional fees to cover the collection expenses.

Those assessments may be set as high as 25 percent of total in-state collections, and up to 50 percent of collections in other states.

Additional fees are also permitted on fines collected in-house by sheriff’s deputies or constables.

Those rates are limited to 15 percent of total in-state collections and 25 percent of out-of-state collections.