Sunday, December 07, 2008

Small Town Rip Off

The Birmingham News is running a very good story in today's paper about state auditors uncovering missing money in small town municipal courts.

From what I gather the court clerks, who take the money citizens have to pay in fines and court costs, keep about half of it for themselves. When they are caught they simply have to pay back the money. No charges are filed for this thieving from public coffers.

This results in citizen's being fined twice and paying twice. In some cases they go to jail. When the clerk steals the money they obviously do not record that a fine or a ticket has been paid. This has affected my family personally.

Back in 1996 my husband got out of the Army and we moved back home to Ashland. On his way to work one morning he got a speeding ticket. When the cop ran his license he pulled up an 'unpaid ticket' from Anniston that happened in 1990 right after we were married. It was for an expired tag. The cop runs my husband in and I had to walk up to the jail with a four-year-old and a new infant in tow, in the frezing cold, being chased by a very unfreindly German Shepherd and post bail.

A new court date was set in Anniston. We knew we had paid trhe ticket because the Army does a background check on everyone enlisting and they would not have accepted my husband into the military without the ticket being paid. Since it had been 6 years and we had lived in a foreign country and West Texas we no longer had the receipt. So, we had to pay it again.

I know many people this has happened to. I always tell people to store the receipts from any fines or tickets paid in a safe deposit box at the bank.

According to the story this is also happening in circuit courts in Alabama and they plan further investigation. That's good news. I only wish that criminal charges were filed against these damn theives who steal from us twice and in some cases put innocent people in jail. If a regular citizen were to rob someone and falsely imprison them they would be in jail for a long time and rightfully so. Why are public officials above the law?

1 comment:

The Ripley Porch said...

My two cents. In my Bama hometown, which shall remain nameless...the cop and only cop got called onto the carpet two years ago...the mayor finally realized that after six years....there were various tickets issued and never cleared "paid" at the town clerk's office. The mayor couldn't readily figure the entire amount....but most folks figured over the previous twelve months...over two hundred tickets were not closed properly. They attempted to fire the cop, but he quit and went ten miles over to get a better paying cop job. This year, he returned and ran for mayor....and won. Enough said there.

I had an associate years ago who grew up in Georgia who watched his cousin rack in $20k over five years from fines which were never turned over.

I would imagine that in the state....its likely to be one of every four fine-dollars which doesn't get registered with the town clerk. Even if you keep a receipt...the town clerk might disavow ever writing such a reeipt....because he's likely in on the deal as well.

What I'd like to see is every single ticket issued...goes to the county court office and you have to pay the fine there rather than the local town. The county can pay the local town affected once a year and keep everyone honest in this entire game. These towns who want to make cops into revenue-making "hookers"...can smile as the county paper publishes what each town made off its private-cop force. It'll keep folks honest.