Courts Crack Down On Fines


People who owe outstanding fines to the Payson Justice or Magistrate courts shouldn't expect tax refunds from the Arizona Department of Revenue this year.

Judicial Enforcement Officer David Paul said the local courts have been taking advantage of a tax intercept program, which allows courts to reroute any tax refunds from the DOR to the court system for the payment of fines.

It's all part of Judge Ronnie McDaniel's new policy to crack down on delinquent fines.

"We're finding that people who are working and holding down a job are spending their money on other luxuries," he said. "We're now going to get a little more serious about collection."

Since the beginning of tax season, Paul has filed 45 intercept requests with the DOR, and has collected $6,959 in outstanding fines.

The Payson courts also are adopting a policy that has worked well in Maricopa County courts.

In the past, McDaniel said, court clerks were allowed to set up payment schedules averaging about $25 a week, and the defendant had an unlimited amount of time to pay off their fines.

Now, they have a maximum of six months to pay their fines.

"We have changed the amounts we try to collect," McDaniel said. "We set up our payment schedule on a bi-weekly basis, with payments now no less than $50 every two weeks."

"In the City of Phoenix, they have a maximum of six months to pay a fine," Paul said. "All fines are due on the day of sentencing. If you can't pay on that day, then you'll go talk to the finance counselor."

The Phoenix courts also run credit checks on defendants who want to pay their fines over time, a practice the Payson Magistrate and Justice courts may adopt.

"They had this one guy who owed a $9,000 fine," Paul said. "When they ran his credit through the computer, they found that he have $142,000 available on his credit cards. They told him he either pays it now, or they'll go back to the judge and start charging $10 a day until it's paid in full."

Although Payson's court officers will continue to work with defendants who are indigent or who have very low incomes, McDaniel said, they will stand firm on this new policy.

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