Criminal Justice Made Convenient
Released: November, 2010
It’s a new trend: Criminal justice, delivered online
Many people who run afoul of the law, encounter a Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Office deputy and drive away with a ticket can now pay their fines from the comfort of their home.
Earlier this year, the MPSO began accepting online payments for specific traffic tickets. Sheriff Mike Tubbs said he was contacted by representatives of ncourt, a Georgia-based company that provides services for law enforcement and government agencies.
"They work with about 10 other sheriffs across the state, and we heard good things about what they were doing for those agencies," Tubbs said.
Motorists who are ticketed can go to the Sheriff's Office website - www.mpso.net - and look in the bottom left corner of the home page and find a link to pay fines and property taxes online, which redirects you to an ncourt page set up specifically for the MPSO. The user inputs their name, address and phone number as well as the number on their citation, their court date and the amount of the fine. Users can either click through a link that reads "Where can I find my fine amount?" or call the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office to find the amount of the fine and corresponding court costs.
After providing that information, clicking the "Continue" button at the bottom of the page directs users to a new page where information about the credit or debit card used is. This is where the user finds out how ncourt makes its money: They add a 10 percent charge to the amount of the fine and related court costs. Before your payment is processed, the information is checked by deputies at the MPSO to make certain everything is correct. MPSO chief civil deputy Jeff Winnon said ncourt wires money the company collects each week.
Winnon also said ncourt will provide online payment for parish property taxes, which will be mailed next week.
Tubbs said in addition to the convenience ncourt provides to people needing to pay fines, the service also helps the department.
"We're short handed in both the criminal and civil offices," Tubbs said. "This service allows us to continue providing the services taxpayers expect when we're actually down two employees from the number we had in the civil office a year ago."
The Sheriff's Office also recently entered into a contract with Archon Information Services of New Orleans, which will collect past due property taxes for the parish. Archon researches tax notices and other public records to find people responsible for paying property taxes and notifies them of the amount owed. Like ncourt, Archon tacks a premium onto the money it collects for providing the services.
Tubbs said the Sheriff's Office is also considering allowing Archon to conduct online auctions to replace the the sheriff's sales the office holds periodically for seized property. Rather than being forced to physically attend the auctions, bidders could submit offers online, Tubbs said, "much like eBay."
"The technology is out there, and we feel it's an effective us of the money the public entrusts to us in trying to generate the money we need to run the department," Tubbs said.