Nearly a quarter of a million people who have failed to pay Iowa court fines and fees can pay half of what they owe — and the rest will be forgiven, but it’s a limited time offer.
The State of Iowa is sending notices through the mail to about 217,000 people who owe court fines and fees that are more than four years past-due. The letter outlines that debtors can pay half of the overdue fines and fees in one lump sump and the other half of the debt will be erased. It’s part of a new amnesty program that starts today, September 1 and ends November 30, 2010.
Roger Stirler of the Iowa Department of Revenue says state officials don’t quite know what to expect. “We’ve never done a court fine amnesty before,” Stirler says. “The ones we’ve done before have always been income tax (amnesty), so this is kind of new territory for us.”
About $300 million worth of Iowa court fines and fees dating back to December 1, 2006 and before that are past due, and eligible for the “amnesty” program. “To our knowledge, no other state has done a court debt amnesty,” Stirler says. “A lot of them have done like we have, on the income tax, but not on the court debt.”
Stirler says most long-over-due court fines, penalties, fees and other court costs can be paid under the program. “But some of those things that aren’t eligible are things like victim restitution. It does not include fines that are payable to cities or counties. Civil penalties and reinstatement fees that are assessed by the Department of Transportation are not eligible,” he says. “It also does not include child support or alimony and if a person has jail fees that they’re required to reimburse the state for, those are not eligible for the program either.”
People who are on probation or parole are not allowed to take advantage of the amnesty program, nor can those who are currently in jail or prison.
The state is mailing notices to the 217,000 people who are eligible to take advantage of the amnesty program, but those letters may not reach all of them. “We are attempting to contact all of the eligible people by mail, so they should be getting a letter,” Stirler says. “But if they don’t get a letter and think they should have, they need to contact us because we obviously have addresses that are very old and we aren’t going to be able to reach everyone on this.”
State officials have posted more information about the amnesty program online at www.PayTheFineIowa.gov.