Holiday promotion sets up payment plan for court fees

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Twelve days into a special holiday program that allows Metro Detroiters to catch a break on old traffic tickets and other outstanding court fines, people are taking advantage of the opportunity.

Officials with 36th District Court this month launched an initiative that allows citizens to enter into a layaway-type program for old tickets and fines by putting 10 percent down on the outstanding balances and entering into a payment plan. That’s less than half of the 25 percent down that is normally required.

Late fees and other penalties will be waived once individuals make their final payment.

About 437 cases have been signed up for the Holiday Ticket Layaway Program, bringing in $21,698 to the court’s coffers, according to court administrator Kelli Moore Owen. The program runs through the month of December.

“This program ... was designed to allow individuals the opportunity to eventually restore their driving privileges in a manner that works within their budget,” Moore Owen said.

Chief Judge Nancy Blount said: “We are excited to offer this chance for individuals to get back on track and eventually restore their driving privileges, whether they have defaulted on a previous payment plan or want to start a new plan.

“Plus, the waiver of all penalties and late fees upon final payment should be a big incentive to comply with their new or reinstated agreement.”

Moore Owen said court officials “wanted to do something unique this holiday season and this is a way for people to start fresh with payments that fit their budget before additional collection enforcement actions, slated for January 2017, are initiated.”

Some of the ways court officials will try to collect outstanding fees and fines from those who don’t enter into the payment plans are through delinquency notices, phone calls, intercepting tax refunds, wage garnishment and show cause hearings.

The layaway plan is the latest initiative aimed at clearing up old tickets, fines and violations by area residents at the once-troubled and financially struggling court that has faced a backlog of cases and problems collecting fines.

Last year, a ticket amnesty program drew long lines of people who took advantage of a chance to settle old tickets and other fines during a two-day “Holiday Sales Event” Dec. 28-29. The event brought in $300,000.

The program resulted in the closing of 2,232 cases of thousands of people and cleared up 1,888 license suspensions.

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