By DENISE RAYMO Press-Republican
---- — MALONE — Judges will no longer allow unpaid fines to accumulate in Malone Town Court.
Defendants about to be sentenced must either pay their bill in full on the day of sentencing or set up a short-term payment plan with the court until the debt is settled, said Judge Michael Lamitie.
In the past, people with outstanding fines were given 90 to 180 days to pay their bills.
But many weren’t paying anything or they would wait until the 90th or 180th day to begin paying something toward the debt, said Senior Court Clerk Louise LeBerge.
As of Friday, the court was owed $322,799 in unpaid fines, which have piled up from as long ago as 30 years.
The town merged its court with the Village of Malone Court at the end of 2010, and the outstanding debt has become a sore subject to many.
In April 2011, the District Attorney’s Office awarded the town a $2,000 grant to hire a temporary person to collect the fines, but the effort was not successful.
Lamitie announced the new rules from the bench this week.
If the person is involved in a criminal case and doesn’t pay, a bench warrant can be sworn out, and he or she can additionally be charged with failure to pay a fine.
Those with vehicle-and-traffic violations who don’t pay can have their license suspended for a year by the State Department of Motor Vehicles, said LeBerge.
The DMV notifies the driver his or her privileges are about to be suspended and gives them another month to pay the outstanding fine or face the suspension.
And those drivers who don’t pay up before the deadline must also shell out a $70 fee to get driving privileges reinstated, LeBerge said.
“We’re seeing a lot more aggravated unlicensed operation arrests because people are driving with their license suspended,” she said.
“At least with the (vehicle and traffic cases), I can file the suspension with the DMV,” she said, “but with a criminal case, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
NO THIRD CLERK
LeBerge said the new policy creates a little more work for her and the staff, especially at a time when the number of tickets being issued is on the rise.
She said she is filing between 150 and 200 tickets a week from State Police and Village of Malone Police Department.
Court officials asked the Town Council for a third court clerk in its 2014 budget at a salary of $13,000, but the position was one of the items removed during the town’s first budget work session.
Email Denise A. Raymo:email@example.com