Court amnesty programs forgives interest on tickets

Six local courts are sponsoring an amnesty program, forgiving the interest and penalties on traffic fines and allowing offenders to wipe the slate clean with the payment of the original fine.

“A lot of times people don’t pay their fines and the amount increases,” said Port Orchard Municipal Court Administrator Deborah Hunt. “This makes it harder for them to pay the fine, and they can lose their licenses and end up in jail.”

The amnesty deal is available during the month of November, from courts in Port Orchard, Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

Kitsap County District Court is also participating.

The fines include traffic, parking and other non-criminal misdemeanor charges.

Those paying the delinquent charges will only be assessed the original infraction amount, without the interest or penalties.

Further, any licenses suspended as a result of the nonpayment will be restored, and resulting credit agency actions removed.

Hunt said Port Orchard would collect between $2.5 million and $3 million in revenue if all those who qualified for the amnesty paid their fines.

Kitsap County District Court Administrator Maury Baker estimated the county could collect around $25 million under the same circumstances, for infractions that date back 10 years or more.

Baker doesn’t expect such a large influx, and sets the bar much lower.

“If we clear just one case, the program will be a success,” he said. “That means that we don’t have to spend staff time chasing after a violator, and they can move on with their lives.”

Anyone whose license is suspended for nonpayment is notified by mail, and could be jailed if they are pulled over.

A credit agency report could prevent a violator from getting loans for a house or a car, and could change their life.

Baker pointed out that settling this debt will qualify loan applicants for a lower interest rate, so the saving comes from two directions.

Anyone who does not pay a fine can be assessed an immediate 19 percent fee, with 12 percent interest compounded on an annual basis.

The collection agency, AllianceOne, is taking a loss on those collections satisfied during the amnesty period.

Hunt said that Port Orchard periodically participates in amnesty programs, but has not done so since 2002. Baker said he could not recall Kitsap County ever participating in an amnesty program.

Anyone wishing to pay off a past ticket should contact AllianceOne at (800) 456-8838 prior to Nov. 30.


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