Fines and assessments for DUIs in Arizona as misdemeanors can be very substantial and in some cases can be well over $10,000. For that reason all courts allow defendants to make time payments for the fines and assessments.
The rules vary somewhat by court, though most courts will as a matter of course allow people to make time payment plans. The exception would be the City of Phoenix Court, which says that if a defendant has the ability to pay the fines on the day of sentencing they must pay them in full. The way the court financial enforcement unit would make that determination is, they run a credit check and if they find the person has a credit card with available credit in excess of the amount due for the fines and assessments then they insist on the person paying that amount on the credit card that day. But Phoenix is an exception; all other courts basically do it as a matter of course upon request.
To pay over time the court assesses a one-time $20 time payment fee that is mandated by state law. The court does not impose interest, so there is no interest at least initially; no interest on any outstanding payments as long as the defendant continues paying the payment plan in accordance with the terms they’ve agreed to, then there is no problem.
If however they miss a payment, then there is a problem. Enforcement mechanisms depend upon the court. In the Maricopa County Justice Courts what happens is the defendant is placed on summary probation, and one of the conditions is to make the payments. if the defendant failed to make a payment then the court may institute a violation of probation proceeding, and sentence the defendant to jail if they’re unable to come up with a good reason why they didn’t make the payments.
Other courts such as Scottsdale and Phoenix do not place the defendant on probation for purposes of collecting the fines, but rather will set an order to show cause at which the defendant must explain why they did not make the payments. If it’s not a good reason, then the court can hold them in contempt and sentence them to jail.
It is very important to stay current with whatever payment plan the person sets up. The reason for that is the law also authorizes the court to contract with a collection agency to collect the money and so somebody runs into a problem with payments, getting behind on the payments and it goes to collections then the court is authorized to add an extra 18% penalty on top of the amount due, and the collection agency can add collection costs as well. So a fine amount can go up very quickly if it goes into collections.
A person can make payments with just about every court now either by calling up with a credit card or by paying online. There’s an option to pay online with virtually all courts. It’s important to remember that if you pay online or pay by calling in at that you have to do it in a timely fashion. For example if you are paying by credit card online and it its due as of 12:00 midnight and you wait to 12:05 a.m. and try to pay it then you can’t pay because then you’re locked out of the online payment option, and they won’t accept the payment. Instead the court is either going to file a violation of probation proceeding, if it’s a justice court, or an order to show cause if it is a court like Phoenix and Scottsdale. So in short, it’s important to make the payments in a timely fashion. Make the payment on time because if you do not, even though you may have the ability to pay you’ll end up with an order to show cause or probation violation proceeding.
What the courts can do now is, if it determines that a person is unable to make the fine payments, financially unable to do so, they can do community service and pay off the fine at the rate of $10 per hour of community service. That’s another option that didn’t used to exist, although the court must make the determination the person is unable to pay the fines and generally speaking the court wants the fine money, so that’s not an option very often used.
Doing community service does not apply to any court-ordered restitution (if for example there’s a traffic accident and the defendant is ordered to pay for damages). They still have to pay the restitution and they cannot do community service for the restitution.
So that’s today’s podcast topic, namely, time payment plans for DUI fines and assessments.