Corinth Municipal Court is offering a chance to get on the right side of the law during the month of March.
The court is beginning an amnesty program on Friday and continuing through March 30 for people who want to clear up old fines and avoid a possible trip to jail for failure to pay. The offer of amnesty is for old fines only — those owed prior to March 1, 2012 — and requires the person owing the fine to voluntarily come to the municipal court office at the justice center on South Harper Road.
Those who make a voluntary appearance during March to address delinquent fines and outstanding warrants will not be arrested, said Court Clerk Zane Elliott.
After the amnesty period ends, the court intends to get tough with outstanding fines.
“I would like to encourage anyone with outstanding old fines to take advantage of this program,” said Elliott. “We are going to work with you, but you have to come in and see us during the month of March, because after that, we will be coming after you with the full force of the law.”
The program is intended to chip away at the backlog of old fines owed to the city and to give relief to people who may be in violation of a court-ordered obligation because they simply couldn’t pay. Elliott said it will help the court clear out delinquent cases and focus its resources on the collection of more recent cases.
Those who owe money can resume their prior payment plan or schedule a new one that fits their budget.
Judge John Ross and the court administrators have seen people get buried by fines and have a difficult time catching up.
“We find for some people their fines just keep adding on and on, and a person cannot pay a ticket even though they might have been able to otherwise,” said Elliott. “We are fairly certain that a great number of people are good, honest citizens who cannot get out from under this obligation. By offering this amnesty program, this will allow relief to those most affected.”
He said some are reluctant to appear because they can’t afford to pay off the fines and court costs.
The police department is also backing the program.
“We are going to continue to actively serve warrants, and I encourage people to take advantage of this program,” said Police Chief David Lancaster. “Once they are arrested, it’s too late.”
Elliott said he expects the office to have a busy month once word spreads and people see that “this is an excellent way to rid yourself of the threat of arrest.”
The court staff recently purged the books, removing deceased individuals and some others dating back a number of years, clearing about $600,000 from the backlog of fines. Increased serving of warrants by the police department has also decreased the amount owed to the city.
Anyone who wants to call and find out if he or she has an outstanding warrant for arrest may contact the court office at 286-2236.