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Collect $1 million in fines

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
MUSA Council
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    Posted: Nov 11 2015 at 9:01am

Posted: 5:21 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015

Middletown hopes to collect more than $1 million in fines

By Rick McCrabb

Staff Writer


Middletown Municipal Court is making a last-ditch effort to collect more than $1 million in delinquent fines, fees and costs before turning them over to the Ohio Attorney General, officials said.

Court Clerk Steve Longworth said about 2,200 letters are being mailed this week notifying residents about their unpaid court fines that accumulated for the last 18 months, from January 2014 through June 2015. The letters gave a deadline of Dec. 15, 2015 to pay the fines or contact the court, he said.

Longworth said on average the fines are about $500 per person, though one person owes more than $7,000.

He said under a recent change in state law, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office can collect debt on behalf of local governments under a Local Government Collection Services program. He said those fines that are unpaid will be turned over to the AG’s office, and a 10 percent collection fee will be added to the original cost.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is successful, Longworth said, because it has “a good system in place” that gives it the ability to automatically withhold a delinquent person’s state tax refunds or Ohio lottery winnings.

Longworth said fines can be paid on-line or in the City Building before the deadline. If someone is unable to pay the total amount of their fines, Longworth said, the court will work with that individual. He said Middletown Municipal Court Judge Mark Wall is “very willing” to assist those in the community who are working to pay their outstanding fines.

Collecting the debt impacts all residents because the money is distributed to the city, Butler and Warren counties, the state, Lemon Twp. and Trenton, Longworth said. The city collected $3.5 million in 2014, and of that, $2.3 million resulted from criminal cases and $1.2 million from civil cases, according to the audit’s report.

Last year, the city of Middletown received $1.6 million, the State of Ohio ($508,000), Butler County ($193,000), Lemon Twp. ($11,000), Warren County ($850) and city of Trenton ($145), the report said.

Middletown will be the second local agency to use the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as a collection agency. Butler County Court Clerk Mary Swain said her agency started using the office to assist in collecting court costs associated with civil cases. She said from Jan. 26, 2014 to present, the agency has collected nearly $14,000 for the county, money that may otherwise never been collected. She said delinquents typically respond quicker to a letter from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

Before the state office is contacted, Swain said, the county sends three notices to residents who owe the court money.

In Hamilton, about 2,000 defendants owe the court about $1.2 million in delinquent fines and costs for the last 18 months, said Susan Mense, secretary for the Hamilton Municipal Court. She said the city doesn’t use a collection agency.


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