Bench Card Offers Guidance On Collection of Court Fines, Costs
In an effort to better educate judges and court personnel about the collection of fines and court costs, the Ohio Supreme Court has published a reference guide.
The bench card briefly explains the differences between court costs and fines, when enforcing fines by incarceration is appropriate, and the process for a court to substitute community service as payment for court costs. It also includes citations to state statutes and court cases.
Judges attending the annual three-day winter conference of the Association of Municipal/County Judges of Ohio this week received copies of the bench card. Copies will be mailed to judges unable to attend.
The bench card begins with a general statement about fines and court costs and appropriate collection methods.
“Fines are separate from court costs. Court costs, restitution and fees are civil, not criminal, obligations and may be collected only by the methods provided for the collection of civil judgments. Sole authority exists under R.C. 2947.14 for a court or magistrate to commit an offender to jail for nonpayment of fines in a criminal case. An offender CANNOT be held in contempt of court for refusal to pay fines. Accordingly, unpaid fines and/or court costs may neither be a condition of probation, nor grounds for an extension or violation of probation.”
Supreme Court staff developed the bench card in consultation with a workgroup that included Ohio Public Defender Tim Young and three experienced Ohio trial court judges: Lakewood Municipal Court Judge Patrick J. Carroll, Defiance Municipal Court Judge John T. Rohrs III, and Fairborn Municipal Court Judge Beth W. Root.
Judge Root, as president of the Association of Municipal/County Judges of Ohio, spoke of the value of having this reminder handy.
“As judges we strive to implement fairness and justice,” she said. “This bench card is a useful tool for judges to ensure that the law is being properly applied to those who owe fines and court costs.”
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