Monday, July 21 2014 6:10 PM EDT2014-07-21 22:10:13 GMT
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Toledo Municipal Court is owed $23 million dollars in unpaid criminal and traffic fines.
WTOL's Jenna Lee reviewed thousands of cases to find a wide variety of overdue balances.
The Clerk of Court told WTOL in an interview that the total amount due is shocking for a number of reasons.
The Toledo Municipal Court primarily deals with criminal misdemeanors, such as, simple assault, petty theft and indecent exposure. It also handles the bulk of traffic offenses—speeding, drunk driving, driving without a license, etc.
No matter what—criminal acts and traffic violations carry a steep cost.
Once an offender's case closes, the individual receives a notice in the mail detailing an amount due. If he or she fails to pay the fine/fee within 30 days, the notice is then sent to a court-hired collection agency.
Right now, Capital Recovery Services is trying to get a lot of money from a lot of people in Toledo.
Currently, there are 3,006 active cases in the Toledo Municipal Court system, with unpaid fees exceeding $23 million dollars.
"It's sad—I think it's really sad that people use the services of the court and don't pay up," said Vallie Bowman English, Toledo Municipal Clerk of Court.
It's a large chunk of change that could help the city and state significantly, Bowman explains. When the fines are paid, the money is divided into several different categories benefitting: the courts, Toledo's General Fund (which is primarily dedicated to police, fire personnel and jail usage), the Crime Stoppers program and organizations to support victims of crimes.
WTOL viewed the city of Toledo's approved 2014 budget. It allots a total of $4,805,350 to the Police Department and $7,485,121 for the Fire & Rescue Department. To put $23 million into perspective, if the city collected all of the money, it would be enough to pay for Toledo's entire police and fire departments for nearly two full years. http://toledo.oh.gov/media/104356/combined-book.pdf
Some of the unpaid fines date back decades; the oldest was issued in 1974!
The names of criminals owing the most:
Peter Cann—ordered to pay more than $10,000.
Taylor Hudson—sentenced to fork over more than $6,000.
James Hinckley—ruled to cough up more than $4,000.
"It puts a strain on the entire system when the money is not received," said Bowman-English.
It all comes down to finding the offenders—but that's not always easy. The Clerk of Court says the people could be anywhere in the world!
To help recover the funds, a statewide "Warrant Block System" was implemented in 2003. The block denies the right to apply for a driver's license or vehicle registration to anyone with outstanding debt to the Clerk of Court's office. http://www.bmv.ohio.gov/warrant_block.stm
However, that measure did nothing to push Toledo lawbreakers stemming from 1974 to 2003 to shell out the cash. During that time period, Toledo Municipal Court actually had no system in place to pull in the money, attorneys served as collection agents and pocketed a third of the paid fine.
"For cases that are prior to 2003, we can't put a warrant block on those cases. They are living in our jurisdiction, they're still registering their vehicle—they have no incentive to pay," said Bowman-English.
With that said, the Clerk of Court is considering hiring an additional collection agency to recover the $23 million due.
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