Courts show mercy to people owing money

Folks who owe money on unpaid traffic tickets or other kinds of fines through district and municipal courts can get off the financial hook at a greatly reduced rate under a “debt reduction / relicensing program” this month.

Island County District Court and the municipal courts of Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley are taking part in the program along with about 100 other courts in the state.

The debt reduction program will undoubtedly be welcome during tough economic times, but it will also lead to fewer unlicensed drivers on the roads.

“The primary objective of this program is to make it easier for persons to obtain a valid license as well as allow persons to take care of non-traffic matters with the court,” District Court Judge Peter Strow said.

For people with outstanding tickets and fines, the savings will be substantial. The district and municipal courts on the island will waive the $52 late fee penalty on matters that have not yet been forwarded to collections, offer reductions for pre-collections, past-due accounts infractions, and work with collection agencies to waive interest and a significant portion of collection costs on both traffic and non-traffic matters.

The court is offering the program from May 1 through May 31, 2009. Those with outstanding tickets or fines should contact the court by calling 360-675-5988.

If people know which collection agency to contact, they may also contact the collection agency directly. Clerks will also be able to provide names of other courts where fines may be outstanding.

One of the main goals of the program is to assist citizens with regaining driver’s licenses after being revoked due to unpaid fines and fees. Once tickets are paid in full and reported to the court, the court will notify the Washington State Department of Licensing to clear the driving record. The driver may be able to obtain a valid driver’s license 48 hours later if no other offense on the driving record prevents it.

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