In Utah, warrants are typically not collected, but serve as a mechanism to ensure the appearance of defendants in court. Warrants reflect the outstanding fine, fee, and citation amount for low-level offenses and the bail amounts set by judges for more serious offenses. The Office of the Legislative Auditor General for the State of Utah conducted a review of court data and survey results to determine how much money is in unpaid warrant accounts from unpaid fines and fees, and identify current collection methods and best practices for collecting warrant accounts. The audit found that active and outstanding warrants amount to $592 million of unpaid fines and fees statewide; however, only $50 million is collectible. The report also makes recommendations for improving court debt collection.
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- Courts collect an average of $54 million from fines and fees; $48 million comes from justice courts.
- In FY 2015, less than 1 percent of defendants forfeited their bail by failing to appear in court; about $155,000 was forfeited in district court and $91,500 in justice courts.
- In Utah, a judge can dismiss fines and fees or reduce it based on a defendant’s ability to pay, jail time served, community service in place of fines, and engagement in treatment programs.
- Justice courts remit revenue to local and state governments; $9.4 million of surcharges were remitted to the state General Fund between FY 2019 and 2021.
- 71 percent of justice courts do not track collection rates.
- 80 percent of justice court clerks believe warrants are an effective method for collecting unpaid fines and fees.
- Utah prohibits the suspension of a driver’s license based solely on failure to pay fines.
- The AOC should train justice courts on best practices for debt collection, including tracking collection rates and the amount of waived fines and fees.
- Justice courts should consider using the Office of State Debt Collection for past due accounts.