This 97th edition of Justice For All is an update on the fine collection program in Clayton County.
For the last three and a half years the Clayton County Attorney’s Office has been collecting delinquent criminal fines, surcharges, court costs, restitution, and any other financial obligations owing to the State of Iowa from Clayton County criminal cases. This program has been a success by any definition of the term.
The collection process works by allowing a defendant who is delinquent on their financial obligations to enter a payment plan with my office to repay their debt in full. Delinquent defendants enter into “CAPPs” which stands for County Attorney Payment Plans. In the past, when private collectors were in charge, a defendant would be assessed a 25% penalty on any delinquent amounts, which drove them even further into debt. My office does not charge any penalties and once a defendant meets certain conditions we can even help them get their vehicle registered and their driver’s license back if it was suspended due to nonpayment of fines.
Defendants who enter into payments plans are not the only beneficiary of our fine collection program. Our local county government is allowed to keep a portion of the debt that is collected and our supervisors in the past have used this revenue for projects such as refurnishing the jury chairs both in the courtroom and in the jury room, adding new technology in the courtroom, and paying expenses associated with my service on the Iowa County Attorney Association’s Legislative Committee and Best Practices Committee. The fine collection program has allowed the county to do all of these things at no cost to the taxpayers of Clayton County.
The most memorable story about a defendant with delinquent debt involved an operating while intoxicated conviction from the 1980s where a defendant from out of state pled guilty to the offense but never paid any of the fines associated with the crime and it sat delinquent for over 25 years. When he was contacted by my office to enter into a CAPP he adamantly denied ever having been to Clayton County Iowa in his entire life and used colorful language to assure us that we had the wrong person. We sent him his record of conviction and the documents which summarized the offense and shortly afterwards he sent a check for the full amount that was due.
Since the fine collection program started we have collected a total of $338,994 with $109,881 of that money going directly to Clayton County as opposed to the General Fund of the Legislature in Des Moines which is where all of that money would have otherwise been sent to had it been collected any way other than through my office’s collection program. Assistant County Attorney Zach Herrmann has been running the program since its inception in July 2015 and has done a superb job achieving justice for all.