The Central Virginian

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Louisa’s court will ease policy on paying fines

Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

Susan Griffin, a court services officer at Louisa General District Court, prepares to check a visitor on Tuesday. The court is changing its policy on how much money people who have been found guilty must put down to extend the time they have to pay court costs and fines. Failure to pay on time can result in people losing their right to drive.

People who owe money in Louisa General District Court will soon find the rules have been tweaked in their favor, though this won’t help the 531 county residents whose licenses are suspended because they didn’t pay on time.

Beginning on May 1, the amount people must put down to extend the time they have to pay court fines and costs will drop from 50 percent to five percent, according to Brandy Alexander, district court clerk.

The policy change stems from a debate over the fairness of court fees that has raged over the past two years at the Virginia General Assembly and in federal and state courts. Advocates say burdensome court fees cost many people their driver’s licenses, including cases where the original charge against them had nothing to do with driving.

In November, the Virginia Supreme Court issued a rule that lower courts should not charge a down payment of more than 20 percent when the balance due is $500 or less, or 10 percent if the balance is more than $500. The court is expected to issue a new rule in May that further reduces the allowable down payments to 10 percent and five percent, respectively, Alexander said.

“The Supreme Court is making it easier for defendants to make payment and keep their licenses,” she said.

Louisa General District Court, where most local traffic and misdemeanor criminal cases are prosecuted, has long had a policy requiring people to pay half the amount due in order to get a one-month extension of their time to pay. Otherwise, the court requires the entire amount to be paid within 30 days.

To read the entire story, see the April 20 edition of The Central Virginian.