Courts tout success of online payment method for fines and fees

An online method of paying court fees using credit and debit cards is being called a success by court administrators who credit it with improving efficiency and contributing to higher collection levels. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), any traffic tickets, court-ordered fines, costs, and restitution issued anywhere in Pa. can now be paid using the online E-Pay system. The system was expanded from Common Pleas courts to all magisterial courts, phased in between April 2010 and December 2011. District Judge George "Tony" King said the implementation has already led to more fines being paid in a more timely manner than before. "Within the first few weeks of it, the collection rate was around $300,000. It's definitely a good tool," King said. According to the AOPC, "Daily collections through the online payment option have climbed to $140,000, and (Pa. Supreme Court) Chief Justice Castille said it appears to be contributing to higher court collection levels that totaled nearly $470 million in 2011." District Judge Mark Jacob also said the accessibility and convenience of the system will likely result in fewer individuals falling into default on payments, as it provides them with a new immediate means of making a payment at any time through the state's Unified Judicial System website. "We've had occasion to use it several times already when I've been involved and people either came on a warrant and they needed to pay it immediately, they were able to do it on e-pay," Jacob said. "It certainly seems more convenient for them to pay that way when they don't have either cash on hand or they can't get to a banking institution for a certified money order, so certainly in that respect it's more convenient." Elk County collections on court disbursements, with a total of 5,360 cases filed, totaled $1,032,751.72 in 2011, with $563,737.22 of that coming from the Magisterial District Judge System and the remainder coming from the Court of Common Pleas.King also said that due to the $2.75 surcharge per e-pay transaction, he anticipates more individuals would be inclined to pay the fines, costs, or fees in full so as to avoid repeatedly incurring the surcharge."Most of the e-pays, I would suspect, are full payments for their fines and costs. Somebody that's put on a payment plan generally is not going to pay by e-pay when they find out it's an additional $2.75 every time they make one of their payments," King said. Pick up a copy of the Saturday, April 7, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.