Understanding the collections system for municipal court fees

By Judge Zack Dolyk

Courts are established to provide justice they are not created for the purpose of generating revenue.  However, we understand our responsibility to collect the fines and costs imposed at sentencing.

The Clerk’s office of the Vermilion Municipal Court attempts to collect all fine and costs in a timely manner.  When the defendant is unable to pay the full amount due at the time of sentencing we normally offer a payment plan that has at least a minimum payment of $50.00 per month.  The Court then schedules a review hearing every 30 days thereafter to monitor payments.  If the defendant fails to uphold the terms of his payment plan he is placed into collections.

The Court understands the financial burdens that fine and costs have upon the defendant and their families.  However, it is the responsibility of the defendant to appear at all fine and cost review hearings and to make regular monthly payments.  When a defendant fails to make regular payments or appear for hearings the court will forward the case to a collection service.  This results in additional collection fees being assessed against the defendant.

To avoid the additional charge for the collection service, which is 30% of the balance due, a defendant, must make his agreed payment as shown on the agreement.   In addition, if a driver’s license is forfeited the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires a release form from the court along with a reinstatement fee the license can be reinstated.

The Court does not forgive any balance owed simply because of the age of the case.  The money is due and must be paid.   The Vermilion Municipal Court has entered into a contract with Capital Recovery Systems, Inc. There is no cost to the court.  All collection fees are paid by the defendant.  The Court has forwarded unpaid fine and costs due to the court from cases as old as 1987.    Capital Recovery has collected for the court $1,163,544.87 in past due fines and costs to date.

Last year, the Court collected over $1,443,238.39 in fine, costs, judgments and filing fees.   As mentioned in an earlier article, the money received through the Clerk’s office is disbursed monthly to various agencies, as required by law, in the counties of Erie and Lorain, State of Ohio as well as the City of Vermilion.  The City of Vermilion is also reimbursed for a portion of the salary and medical insurance premiums for the position of Clerk of Court and Judge.  A portion of the salaries for the bailiff, visiting judges and prosecutor are also reimbursed to the City.  The Finance Director of the City of Vermilion is responsible for seeking reimbursement from Erie County and Lorain County.  Last year, the City was reimbursed over $60,000.00.

The Clerk of Court’s office is open Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and can be reached by calling 440 204-2432.  Payments and case information can be handled on the Court website.  Please visit www.vermilionmunicipalcourt.org . Contact Capital Recovery Systems, Inc. at 1 800-693-6835 for collections issues.

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