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SH Municipal Court to offer amnesty on unpaid fines


November 8, 2016

The Sweet Home Municipal Court will begin offering amnesty on fine payments for anyone who is in collections in January.

The Sweet Home City Council approved the program 7-0 during its regular meeting held Oct. 25.

The Sweet Home Municipal Court has turned over some $2.9 million in fines and fees to collections through Valley Credit Services, said Finance Director Pat Gray. “To help clear out these accounts and help some people get their driver’s licenses back, the court would like to offer a one-time amnesty program to people who are in collections with non-judgment accounts.”

If they pay 50 percent on an account, the city will write off 50 percent as noncollectable, Gray said. That person will then have an opportunity to reinstate his or her driver’s license if it was suspended because of the delinquency.

“A collection agency can hang onto an account for up to 20 years,” said Court Clerk Elisha Wilson.

When convicted, people are not required to pay their fines immediately, Wilson said. They can make the payment the following month, and they can set up payment plans.

Most people don’t pay, though, she said, and when they don’t, their fines and fees are turned over to collections.

Their licenses are typically suspended.

This program gives them an opportunity to get back their licenses, Wilson said, so they can get jobs and drive to work.

It helps the court out too, she said. “This helps us to clean up our house a bit. They’re still held responsible.”

Anyone who is in collections will receive a notice prior to Jan. 1, Gray said. The program will be available through April 30.

It applies only to accounts that do not have judgments against them with the collection agency, Gray said. Payments may be made in cash, money order, cashier’s check, Visa or Mastercard.

The program does not negate Division of Motor Vehicles fees for reinstatement.

In September, the Municipal Court judge imposed $22,000 in new accounts receivable. The court collected $10,500. The court received $11,750 from collections.

The court has about $1.3 million in outstanding accounts receivable.

Seven misdemeanors and 20 violations were filed in Municipal Court in September.

For more information, call the Municipal Court office at (541) 367-4660.

Jury Duty Changes

In other business, the Municipal Court is changing the way it calls residents to serve on juries.

No longer will they be required to serve for six months, Wilson said.

Instead of selecting 500 names to provide jurors over a three-year period, she is sending out 50 postcards, which contain a questionnaire for an upcoming jury trial.

From the pool of 50, the court will pick 16 to potentially serve, Wilson said. The term of service is one month. Jurors now call in and are notified a week earlier if they must serve.

The court used to mail letters and questionnaires to 500 people in the old system, Wilson said. Typically, about 125 would return the questionnaires.

Of those who do not, some say they have medical issues, work or children, Wilson said. Some flat refuse.

In any case, the judge prefers willing jurors, she said.

The new system will save money, “and it saves me a lot of time trying to fold,” Wilson said.

The Municipal Court uses lists compiled by Linn County to randomly choose Sweet Home jurors, Wilson said.


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