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Westmoreland County program to collect fines, restitution to expand

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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Administrative hearings for criminal defendants who owe court costs and restitution payments will increase in 2013.

Clerk of Courts Bryan Kline said on Tuesday that his year-old program to collect cash for the court system brought in an additional $600,000 last year.

“It's generating revenue for the county and for victims. Victims are the main focus here because they need to be made whole again,” Kline said.

Kline's office, in addition to keeping all criminal court records, is responsible for collecting court costs, fines and restitution payments.

Last year Kline initiated a system in which he summoned defendants who have missed payments to a hearing before him at the courthouse.

About 40 hearings each month are conducted, in which payment plans are set up, Kline said. Those who ignore hearing notices go before a Common Pleas Court judge, who can find a defendant in contempt of court and face a potential jail sentence for not making payments.

Kline said no one so far has been found in contempt.

But the hearings before Kline have been so successful that he said he will increase the number of days he brings in defendants to the courthouse.

He plans to conduct five days of hearings in March.

“I think it will benefit the collections greatly,” Kline said.

His office collected $5.4 million last year. The office took in $4.89 million in 2011; $4.79 million in 2010; and $4.56 million in 2009, the year before Kline took office.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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