The Champaign County Circuit Clerk's office is dropping collection and late fees on all criminal and traffic cases, this week only, during the office's third annual Amnesty Week.
It’s called Amnesty Week because if the overdue fine or fee is paid up in full, the Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s office will drop any collection fee or late fee, which would otherwise add a considerable amount to the total charge.
“And so that’s a thirty percent increase, which is a considerable amount,” said Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman. “So sometimes people find it harder to get those cases paid off. So this is just an opportunity for people to clear those up.”
The amnesty only applies to traffic and criminal cases, not charges having to do with child support, small claims cases or any other civil cases.
Blakeman said some 150 cases were paid off during Champaign County’s first Amnesty Week in 2017, with the number increasing to more than 250 for the second Amnesty Week the following year.
“My staff always really enjoys this week,” said Blakeman, “because people get so excited, and they’re happy that they’re able to take care of those outstanding court fines and fees and move on.”
People get so excited, and they’re happy that they’re able to take care of those outstanding court fines and fees and move on.”Katie Blakeman, Champaign County Circuit Clerk
Besides posing a financial burden, the unpaid fees can cause legal difficulties, such as when unpaid traffic fines keep someone from having a driver’s license. In those instances, Blakeman said the Circuit Clerk’s office will provide “compliance” paperwork that can brought to an Illinois Secretary of State facility to prove all traffic fines have been paid.
Blakeman said that was the case in one of the happiest stories she saw come out of the amnesty program, involving a couple whose accumulated traffic fines had kept both from having valid driver’s licenses for several years.
“They were able to both get all of those cases paid off,” said Blakeman of the 2017 amnesty case. “And together they were taking that compliance paperwork and going directly to the DMV to get their driver’s licenses. And then they were going to buy a car.”
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