Coronavirus Relief for Court Debt
In many criminal conviction cases, courts may require defendants to pay fines and court fees as part of their sentence. Some people also have to pay restitution for any victims suffering financial losses because of the crime. Those who receive probation may also have to pay probation-related costs. Needless to say, these fees and fines can become costly, further dampening the financial hardship so many people are struggling with due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Even though courts have closed, people are still expected to pay all the fines and fees involved in their sentence. If someone fails to pay their dues, judges can issue bench warrants, which compels them to appear in court. If they cannot provide a reasonable explanation as to why they are not paying their fees and fines, the judge can administer further consequences. These ramifications can include a suspension or revocation of one’s driver’s license, wage garnishment, and even, get their probation revoked. Luckily, however, some courts recognize the struggle to pay these fines during a pandemic and offer temporary relief to those struggling.
As stated above, some courts across states, cities, counties, and judicial districts have provided deadline extensions for people’s owed fines and fees. Some of the areas participating are located in Illinois, California, Georgia, Florida, and more. Some courts have also decided to halt any accumulation of late fees or interest tied to the debts for the time being. In other courts, they have decided to impose a moratorium on collections involvement and various other measures. In other words, places like Chicago have stopped sending court debt to collection agencies, and defendants will be protected from wage garnishments, tax refunds being seized, and levies on their bank accounts. However, it is essential to note that while stimulus checks are protected from collections efforts, they are not protected from other methods of collections services.
Even further, it is no doubt that losing a driver’s license can be detrimental for anyone needing to drive for work. So, a few states, including North Carolina and Oregon, have halted revoking driver’s licenses due to failure to pay fines and fees or failure to appear in court. Stopping this practice helps more defendants keep their jobs and allows other defendants to find new jobs. In the end, this will only help them pay their court debts back in the future.
If you owe any money to the court, it would be in your best interest to check your court’s website for any relief they offer during this pandemic. Don’t be discouraged if you do not see any of the listed forms of relief. Some courts will allow you to negotiate a payment plan based on your individual circumstances. Considering the hardships everyone is facing, the court clerk’s office may be open to listen to your case and work something out.
Traffic Tickets and Traffic Court Closures
Unless needed for essential matters or emergencies, most courts shut down in concern of spreading the virus. Because of this, traffic courts all over the U.S. have closed. However, it is important to note that you will still be required to pay traffic tickets eventually. So, unless you plan on contesting your ticket, you are expected to make payments toward your ticket online or by mail. If your sentence requires it, you can also find online traffic school courses to lessen your penalties.
Yet, because the courts are closed, those looking to contest their tickets or request reduced penalties will have to wait a long time to resolve their cases. Typically, you will need to appear in court at least once to fight a ticket. Some more severe cases may also require a court appearance whether or not the defendant is contesting their ticket. However, most traffic courts have postponed all their hearings indefinitely, meaning people will have to check their court’s website to determine when they can expect the traffic court to reopen. Until then, those needing or wanting to appear in court will have to wait until the courts reopen and their hearing dates can officially be rescheduled.
If you have any court debts and would like to learn more about relief offered by your court, call the Law Office of David Leicht at (760)256-3104 for a free consultation today.The Law Office of David Leicht serves the California communities of Barstow, Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Adelanto, Baker, Needles, Lucerne Valley, Big Bear, San Bernardino, Mojave, Phelan, and Wrightwood.