Nushrat Rahman, Detroit Free Press
Published 10:53 a.m. ET July 2, 2020 | Updated 4:49 p.m. ET July 3, 2020
An amnesty program that waives certain fees associated with traffic tickets and misdemeanor cases in 36th District Court in Detroit runs for one more week, ending July 10.
Under the amnesty program, warrant, penalty and late fees can be waived if other case fees are paid in full. The reprieve comes at a time of continuing economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a time that we have to be flexible as a court,” said Chief Judge William McConico. Approximately 5,000 people have already taken advantage of the program, he said.
Fees will be waived only for civil infractions — like speeding, illegal turns or running a red light — and adjudicated misdemeanors, meaning a person has come to court and pleaded guilty. Original amounts must be paid but all excess warrant fees and late fees are waived. For example, if a ticket for an accident is paid within 14 days, the fine is $170. But the late fee of $40 brings the total to $210. Warrant fees, which are $60 per ticket, can pile up, too.
The driver’s license reinstatement fee of $45, which may be added if a license has been suspended for failure to comply with judgment or to answer charges, is not included in the amnesty program. This payment goes directly to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Because of the coronavirus, the 36th District Court is not accepting in-person payments. The facility remains closed, except for the payment of bonds and for certain in-custody matters. However, payments can be made online at www.36thdistrictcourt.org or through the DivDat mobile app or kiosk.
“You can practice social distancing, or no distancing at all. You can do it from your house. You can get your license back valid from your living room,” McConico said.
The first week of this year’s amnesty program drew more revenue than the entire program the last time it was held three years ago, he said.
“We’ve had close to roughly 7,000 transactions in the last month and brought in close to $3 million to the coffers. That’s good revenue for the court and that’s a lot of people whose lives have been impacted for the better now that they’re not driving without a license or they can go and get their license now,” McConico said.
Other courts in metro Detroit, including the the 25th District Court in Lincoln Park, the 33rd District Court in Woodhaven and 30th District Court in Highland Park, have offered amnesty programs this year.
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In March, courts across Michigan postponed trials to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The Michigan Supreme Court advised local courts to consult with public health officials when making adjustments during the state of emergency, which is in place through July 16.
Nushrat Rahman covers economic mobility as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Contact Nushrat: firstname.lastname@example.org; 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratR
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