Hundreds of millions in court fees and fines have gone uncollected in the past decade in Middle Tennessee – $290 million in Nashville’s Davidson County alone – with the lagging economy making it even harder to get offenders to pay up, The Tennessean reports. Some fees are to pay for the costs of running court proceedings, others are fines levied as punishment for convictions. As the economy worsened in 2007, criminal offenders simply stopped sending in checks and revenues dipped. There are few, if any consequences, to not paying.
“It is a problem and the clerks across the state do not have a whole lot to help them collect the costs,” said Sumner County Court Clerk Mahailiah Hughes. “It has gotten more difficult in the last couple of years.” Davidson County has renewed a push to collect fees more aggressively and has proposed legislation that could take away offenders’ driver’s licenses because of nonpayment. Recouping Davidson County’s uncollected fees would be nearly enough to fund Metro’s police department, sheriff’s office, jail, and fire department for an entire year. “We’re not covering the cost of the justice system,” said Tommy Bradley, chief administrative officer for the criminal court clerk’s office. “It’s basically become an additional burden on the taxpayer.”