During the 19th century, individuals throughout Europe were routinely jailed when they could not pay their debts. Prisoners were forced to work off their debts or required to secure payment through friends and family. While these debtor’s prisons are a thing of the past, many current criminal justice practices lead to people being incarcerated for unpaid court fees and court-imposed fines. However, Ohio is one of the states fighting back against these modern debtor-prison practices through offering payment plans for fines.
Since 2012, the Ohio Attorney General (AG) has had the ability to collect debts on behalf of county courts. The counties that participate in this program have seen an increase in the amount of fines they collect and a decrease in the number of people wrongfully imprisoned for their inability to pay. Butler and Warren County courts, in particular, have had success working with the AG and creating payment plans for criminal fines.
If you face court costs and fines that you cannot immediately pay, do not wait to receive a collections notice from the AG’s office. Instead, contact Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer Bradley J. Groene to learn how you can be proactive in tackling your court debt.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Collection Program
Prior to 2012, counties had little recourse to collect unpaid debts. The counties would send multiple notices to individuals who owed money. If these individuals could not pay, the counties’ only option was to send additional letters. However, many judges became frustrated with their county’s mounting debt and they put people in jail for being unable to pay, creating modern debtor’s prisons.
To combat these outdated practices, a portion of Ohio statute 131.02 was written to allow the state AG to collect unpaid court costs and criminal fines on behalf of county courts, county clerk’s offices, sheriff departments, and other state or local agencies. Under the law, counties can send information regarding unpaid debt to the AG’s office. Once individuals receive notices from the AG, they can:
- Pay the fines in their entirety,
- Attempt to settle their debt through an Offer in Compromise, which allows individuals to settle for less than what they owe,
- Create a payment plan with their local court, or
- Have their income tax return taken by the state to pay toward the debt.
Payment Plans Increase Collections Without Jail Time
When individuals receive notices of debt from either their counties or the AG, they are not required to pay the entire bill immediately. Ohio county court systems are aware of economic hardship throughout the state and know that many people cannot afford to part with hundreds of dollars at once. Individuals are strongly encouraged to work with their local court systems to create payment plans.
Butler and Warren County Courts acknowledge that working with the AG and encouraging payment plans has helped them collect unpaid fines. Since joining the AG’s program about 3 years ago, Butler County has received $17,403, according to Finance Director Lucinda Gentry. Middletown, Franklin, and Fairfield Counties also participate in the AG’s program and have witnessed an increase in the amount of fines paid. Not only have these counties created a better system to work with individuals who owe fines and increase collection rates, but they have also combatted the number of individuals unfairly jailed for being in debt.
A Cincinnati Criminal Lawyer Can Help With Your Fines
If you owe your county a fine because of a criminal conviction, you should call attorney Bradley J. Groene of Luftman, Heck & Associates, LLP, as soon as possible. If your fines are sent to the AG’s program, you will have an additional collection fee added. You will then have to go through a longer process of applying for an offer to compromise or will have your income tax return taken by the state. Instead of dealing with a stressful collections process or facing a judge who wants to put you in jail, contact Brad today and he will help you work with your country to set up a fair payment plan.
Call Bradley J. Groene at (513) 338-1890 to learn more about payment plans for fines and court costs.