County Attorney’s Collections More Than Double
In July of 2007 the Polk County Attorney’s office began full time collection of
delinquent court debt, and instituted the drivers license reinstatement program.
Four employees work daily to collect overdue obligations owed by persons who have
been involved in the criminal justice system.
Last year (fiscal year 08/09) the License reinstatement Program (LRP) saw the number
of new participants swell to over 700; up from 300 the first year. There are currently
over 500 active clients. Each of these participants pays a minimum of $50 per month
on their past due court obligations. As long as they stay current on their payments
and provide the County Attorney staff proof of insurance, participants are permitted
to obtain and maintain a valid driver’s license. If the County Treasurer has a hold
on their tag renewal because of the non-payment of fines, that hold can be lifted
by County Attorney staff upon execution of a payment plan.
For those who don’t qualify for LRP or who have court debt that is not traffic related,
the Polk County Attorney’s Office has a team of three fine collectors to attempt
collection on outstanding debt. Fiscal year 2008/2009 saw record collection of over
$537,000 in total collections of which $228,315 was paid directly to Polk County.
In the prior fiscal year, Polk County received $95,905.
The Polk County Attorney Collection Staff collects this money through the use of
Garnishments, Voluntary Wage Assignments, and Voluntary Payment Plans. The Collection
Staff averages 70 Garnishments per month, 88 Payment Plans per month, and 48 Wage
Assignments per month on an average of $980,622 in new Court Debt per month.
The County Attorney’s collection staff has also been assisting the Polk County Sheriff’s
Office in the Sheriff’s “Pay to Stay” program. Iowa law allows County Sheriffs to
charge a daily fee for those prisoners who have been in the Sheriff’s custody in
jail, if they ultimately are convicted of a criminal offense. Prisoners who stay
in the Polk County jail are charged a $50 per day fee and a one time administrative
fee of $75. Those who have the ability to pay who don’t pay up, risk having their
wages garnished by the County Attorney’s collection staff.
Fiscal year 2008/2009 saw Sheriff “Pay to Stay” collections jump 22% from last year
to $718,728, up from $588,500 in fiscal year 2007/2008 and up 33% from fiscal year
2006/2007 collections of $482,702. Pursuant to Iowa Code Section 356.7, 60% of this
money collected must be used for courthouse security equipment and personnel, and
infrastructure and improvements of jail and juvenile detention facilities.
County Attorney collections staff in collaboration with the Sheriff’s staff also
established a credit card collection system within the new jail so that prisoners
can pay with a credit card for their stay at the time of release from jail.
In fiscal year 2007/2008, The Collections’ Program collected $51,785 owed to the
Iowa Department of Transportation for civil penalties owed by suspended drivers.
Collections for fiscal year 08/09 were $102,166. A 97% increase over the prior year.
Additionally, the Polk County Attorney’s Office is actively seeking collections
for Victim Restitution; averaging approximately $4,000 a week collected for Polk
County Residents who are victims of crime.
New legislation now allows the County Attorney’s Office to assist individuals with
releasing the hold on Vehicle Registration. Offenders with unpaid Court Debt can
now sign up for a voluntary payment plan or Wage Assignment with the County Attorney’s
Office and their registration hold will be released. The Collections Staff have
released vehicle tags for over 475 offenders since July of 2008.
We are also assisting the Iowa Department of Corrections, 5th Judicial District,
with their collections efforts. Before a client is discharged from probation they
are directed to our office for a voluntary payment plan. We currently see about
45 probationers a week.
The County Attorney’s Collection Program is a division of the Polk County Attorney
John Sarcone’s Restorative Justice Center and staff can be reached at 515-286-3057.