Madison County Circuit Clerk's office to begin debt collection
Got an unpaid court fine or fee? Madison County Circuit Clerk Matt Melucci is issuing notice to pay up.
Melucci said his office is joining efforts with Madison County State's Attorney Bill Mudge's office to collect debts from defendants who were fined as part of a judgment against them, a press release states.
Chief Deputy Clerk Judy Nelson said defendants have been notified to pay their fines, but have not responded or appeared to make arrangements for payment
In most cases, warrants have been issued against violators who failed to pay, she said. But until the warrant can be served, usually as a result of a new arrest, the clerk can't collect the money owed.
Nelson said court fines and fees are distributed among municipalities, the county and various state funds. In turn, Madison County budgets money from those revenues to finance operations of the circuit court system.
"This office is financed by users of the court, not by property or sales taxes," Nelson said.
Melucci encouraged anyone with unpaid court costs "to come foward and pay them now to avoid future collection efforts."
"Traffic fines must be collected on behalf of cities and villages to sustain local law enforcement efforts – especially in the current economy, when finances are stretched thin," Melucci said. "We have to pursue this as a source of revenue in part to reduce the burden on the taxpayers of Madison County, and because it's the law."
Nelson explained how the process will work.
"People who owe fines will be mailed a 30-day notice to pay the amount owed or be referred for collection," she said. "If the debt is referred for collection, the cost goes up 28.5% to cover the added expense of processing. If the debt still isn't paid, it will be reported to credit rating agencies and the defendant can be taken to small claims court. The best time to pay is now."
Debt is largely from unpaid traffic and misdemeanor cases, including DUIs. The first cases targeted for collection will be unpaid DUI fines.
There are several ways for an individual to check for an outstanding balance or review their records.
Individuals can call the Circuit Clerk's office at 618-296-4370, or go online to www.co.madison.il.us, click on "Circuit Clerk" and select "Credit Card Payments Online, Traffic Tickets & Court-Ordered Payments." A person will be prompted to enter his or her birth date and case number.
People can also visit one of the four clerks' offices, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and check the public-access terminals.
The clerk's office will send 30-day notices to defendants with overdue fines and fees.
If the debt is not paid after the 30days, it will be turned over to a law firm, Harris and Harris of Chicago, that specializes in debt collection.
Harris and Harris has partnered with a number of Illinois Circuit Clerk offices for the purpose of recovering unpaid fines.
Payment can be made by credit card, check or money order. Credit card payments may be made online. A small convenience fee will be charged for credit card payments.
Check or cash payment can be made at the courthouse or mailed to Circuit Clerk, Traffic Section-Suite 108, 155 North Main Street, Edwardsville, IL 62025. The case number should be noted on a check to assure proper credit.