Failure to Pay Court Costs: A Costly Mistake
Failure to pay court costs and fines is a crime in and of itself in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It can be difficult and stressful to face a court-imposed debt in the best of situations; the situation is even more stressful when you lack the money to pay the debt.
However, if you attempt to ignore the debt, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
Court costs, fees, and fines are often imposed as part of a sentence in a criminal matter. But they can also be imposed can be imposed in traffic cases and in civil cases. Most often, the fine is set by statute.
There are things you can do if you are facing a failure to pay charge.
Failure to Pay Court Costs and Fines: Defined
Oklahoma courts divide failure to pay court costs and fines into two groups of people: those who can pay but refuse to do so, and those who cannot pay.
When court costs and fines go unpaid, a warrant is issued and the offender is arrested. Then, the court may order a hearing on the person’s ability to pay the debt.
After a hearing, if a judge finds that a defendant is financially able but refuses or neglects to pay the fine, cost, fee, or assessment, then the court may order that person to be remanded to jail.
If the judge finds that payment is difficult, but possible, he or she may order that the defendant pay the costs or fines in installments. In this case, the court will set the amount due and the date each installment is due.
In addition, the court may send a notice of non-payment of costs and fines related to a moving traffic violation to the Department of Public Safety with a recommendation that the defendant’s driver’s license be suspended until the debt has been paid. (See Okla. Stat. tit. 22 § 983.)
Courts also have the power to waive costs and fines under certain conditions.
What You Can Do
Courts usually issue fines without regard to someone’s ability to pay.
All too often, someone who is already having difficulty paying other bills and also cannot afford to hire an attorney, will fail to ask the court to reduce or eliminate a fine. Consequently, this person will accept the fine and hope for the best. Later, when the defendant fails to pay, a bench warrant is issued.
When facing a court on any matter, it is always best to have an attorney represent you. If ability to pay is an issue for you, it is always best to have your attorney deal with the matter upfront. Some judges will minimize or eliminate the fine, while other courts will impose community service hours in lieu of a fine or costs.
If you have been arrested for failure to pay, an attorney can explain your situation to the court in a clear and persuasive manner that will help you work out a way to handle the debt in a manageable fashion.
The worst thing you can do is skip going to court, ignore the problem further, or do nothing. Burying your head in the sand will only make the matter worse.
If you know the warrant has been issued, hire an attorney. Many attorneys will give you an initial consultation for free. You can ask the attorney how best to resolve the matter and even have the attorney intercede with the court on your behalf.
An experienced Tulsa criminal defense attorney can help you advocate your position, enabling the judge to be made fully aware of what you are and are not able to do. A good attorney knows how to explain a position fully and yet succinctly. Judges have a great deal of discretion and can work out a plan with a defendant to manage, reduce, or eliminate the court debt owed.
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney
Call 918-879-1681 for a free consultation or submit a question through this website.