City eyes warrants for unpaid fines
Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Nearly 200 people may soon have warrants issued for their arrest due to failure to pay court fines with the City of Troy.
“This is our last resort to contact these folks,” said Neal Armstrong, court administrator for the Troy Municipal Court. “After this article runs, they have 14 days to contact the court or we’re swearing out warrants for their arrest.”
At issue are nearly 200 people who have defaulted on payment agreements for court fines since Nov. 1, 2015. That’s when the City of Troy stopped using a third-party private collection company and began handling all court collections in house.
Several years ago, the City of Troy contracted with Judicial Corrections Agency Inc. (JCS) to assist with collection of court-ordered fines and mandatory court costs.
“Say you had a speeding ticket and couldn’t afford to pay it all at once,” Armstrong said. “You could work out an agreement with JCS and come down there and make monthly payments.”
JCS handled the collection for many years until the City of Troy terminated the contract in November 2015. “JCS and other municipalities were the target of several lawsuits from the Southern Poverty Law Center, and before that happened here the City of Troy terminated its contract,” Armstrong said. “From a court standpoint, we did everything possible to educate folks that starting Nov. 1 you will come and pay your penalties straight to the court.”
But that isn’t happening, Armstrong said, adding that only 30 percent of the individuals paying fines through JCS were still making payments on their outstanding fines.
“I guess these other folks saw this as an opportunity to just stop paying,” he said. “But they can’t do that…
“If you were making payments or supposed to be making payments to JCS, then you will remember that you were court-ordered to do so. You should contact the Troy Municipal Court to set up arrangements to continue these payments. If you fail to do so, new court actions could arise from the delinquency.”
Armstrong said he has consulted with both the city prosecutor and the municipal judge, who are prepared to swear out arrest warrants on the individuals with delinquent accounts.
“We have tried every means possible to reach these folks,” Armstrong said. “We’ve done mass mailings, phone calls, mailing to the next of kin … and we know they were paying JCS because we have the records.”
The delinquent accounts range from small amounts – like $70 – to large amounts, including those with several hundred dollars remaining. “We’ve got between $30,000 and $40,000 we’re trying to collect,” Armstrong said.
The warrants will be issued after March 9.
“These warrants will be for contempt of court for failure to pay the fines,” Armstrong said. “And the important thing to remember about arrest warrants is they never go away … they can sit there for 10 or 15 years, and someone will get pulled over for a speeding or an expired tag, and the arrest warrant is going to show up on their record.”
Armstrong said the arrest warrants will be entered into national databases, so they will be recognized across state lines. “It may sit there for 10 or 15 years, but these warrants don’t age out. And sooner or later, you’re going to get arrested,” Armstrong said.
Individuals with outstanding or delinquent accounts can contact the Troy Municipal Court to arrange payments before March 9.
The court is located at 300 Elm St. in Troy and can be reached via phone, 334-566-4248; via FAX, 334-566-4845; via email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or in person at 300 Elm St., Troy.
A web-based municipal record search, to check on outstanding fines or balances, can be accessed at www.municipalrecordsearch.com/troyal.