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Paying fines is easier now

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news Alexandria, 56308
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

If you receive a ticket from the State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources or any local law enforcement agency anywhere in Minnesota, paying your fine just got easier.

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Tickets, as long as they don't require a court appearance, can now be paid online or by phone - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Payments can be made online through the Minnesota Judicial Branch website at www.mncourts.gov or by phone by calling (651) 281-3219 or toll-free at 1-800-657-3611.

Payments can still be made at the courthouse in the county where the ticket was issued and through the mail.

This project is part of a Judicial Branch effort to use technology and work process changes to reduce manual data entry and free up as many as 50 court employees statewide to work on other case processing duties. The new system, according to John Kostouros, director of the Court Information Office with the Minnesota Judicial Branch, is estimated to save the Judicial Branch up to $2.7 million annually.

Under the project, the processing of 1.1 million payable citations and tickets issued each year is being transferred from 87 local courthouses to a centralized Court Payment Center. The project, said Kostouros, includes a toll-free call service that can answer questions and direct callers to the appropriate location if a court appearance or other action is required.

The Payment Center project includes electronic filing of traffic citations by many law enforcement agencies directly from squad cars into the court case information system. It also includes automated distribution of fine revenues collected to local governments and the state, and automated referral of past due fines to the Minnesota Department of Revenue for collection.

In a letter to Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea explained the Minnesota Judicial Branch's tranformation, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:

• Centralized payables processing: The virtual payment center will have staff working from their home offices to process paper and electronic citations and support a statewide call center.

• E-Citation - This new technology allows traffic citations to be entered into squad car computers and then transferred electronically into the court's case information system. Kostouros said this would not only save time, but it will also improve accuracy of data entry for law enforcement officials and court staff.

• E-Charging - This will enable county attorneys to file complaints electronically, which will speed up case processing and reduce staff time needed for data entry. Kostouros said this is a "big plus" because prior to the new system there could be a delay of up to two weeks for a case to be processed.

• Expanded use of interactive television for court hearings - The use of ITV could result in travel cost and time-savings for justice partners.

• Expanded payables list - the Minnesota Judical Branch has expanded the number of offenses that are payable, eliminating 100,000 mandatory court appearances to provide calendar relief for judges and justice partners.

Kostouros said the changes that have been made are a "big plus" and that the new system, which relies more heavily on electronic data entry instead of human data entry, is more efficient and there will be less chance for errors.

The new system, he added, posts transactions right away and closes cases in a more timely manner.

He reiterated that when the new system is fully implemented, it could save the state - which includes Douglas County - up to $2.7 million annually.

"It's a win-win all around," Kostouros said. "And now, the public has a more convenient way to pay fines."

LOCAL IMPACT

Numbers for October show how processing payable citations to the Court Payment Center (CPC) relieved Douglas County court staff of work. Every interaction handled by the CPC - case initiation, payment or a call for information - would have previously been handled by courthouse staff.

John Kostouros, director of the Court Information Office with the Minnesota Judicial Branch, said that local courthouse staff reported they could already feel the impact of the new system, which is freeing them up to work on processing more serious cases.

During the month of October, 369 county citations were initiated at the CPC with 138 calls to the call center.

Payments received at the CPC included:

• 1 - cash (had to have been mailed in since there is no counter at CPC to pay at).

• 53 - paper check (mailed to CPC).

• 52 - paid by phone.

• 39 - paid through Internet.

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