North Carolina courts are now accepting credit cards
Image source: Flickr Creative Commons User Romana Klee
If you've ever had a speeding or parking ticket or other court fines or costs, you may know what a hassle it is to pay them. Most of us these days don't walk around with cash on us, or if we do, we don't keep a big wad of money. And if you're not comfortable carrying cash or can't afford to, you'll need to go get a cashier's check or money order to pay your fines or court costs. That's a huge hassle, as well.
Plus there's the inconvenience factor that you may not know how much your fines or fees will be until you go in for your day in court. Once you're there and get the total, you can hit up the ATM and pay a fee or leave and go grab some money, then fight for a parking space when you come back and take up even more time out of your day. But a new policy change announced by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts now allows you to pay these costs with your credit card or debit card.
What Court Items Can Be Paid via Credit Card: The policy change in the NC courts allows in-person credit and debit card payments for criminal fines, civil fines and other fees. Prior to this change, only cash, cashier's checks or money orders were accepted in person. In addition to the actual fine or fee, a convenience fee will be tacked on at the time you pay. That fee doesn't go to the courts, but to cover the cost of processing the payment.
What Court Items Cannot Be Paid via Credit Card: Not all fines and fees can be paid via credit or debt card at your local courthouse. Items that cannot be paid include your alimony payments, bond forfeiture, cash bonds, child support purge payments (this is when you owe a back sum of support and you owe a certain amount to get you out of contempt), civil judgments (i.e. if you were sued and the other party was ordered an award), disputed funds (deposits made with the court for claims being decided by the court), condemnation awards (given to a tenant by landlord if the building is condemned), rent bonds, trusts and upset bids (for foreclosure sales).
What Other Rules Apply to Using Your Credit or Debit Card for Court Payments: Types of cards that are accepted by the North Carolina courts are American Express, MasterCard, Discover and Visa. Also, the fine or fee must be $1,000 or less for a credit or debit card transaction.
Why the State Implemented the Change: All courts across the state have now implemented the payment program that was established under North Carolina Session Law 2013-360, Senate Bill 402, Section 18B.11 “Clerk's Acceptance of Credit Cards.” The law mandated that it be fully implemented by January 1, 2015 and it is fully in play as of May, a full seven months early.
Judge John Smith, Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, says, “The credit card payments system is a win-win service. Accepting credit/debit cards is more convenient for the public and more efficient for the state.” The system has already collected $4 million in just the last few months of early implementation.
What's Great (and Iffy) About This New Law: If you pay your court fines or fees late, you can end up in contempt and find you've got a warrant out on you and that the fines or fees have greatly escalated. This can be a messy road to increased debt. Court fines and fees are nothing to mess around with, so this convenience is great as long as you manage it properly. If you can't afford to pay your credit card bills already, piling on more debt for parking and traffic tickets (and other court fees) isn't a viable solution.
If you are in deep in debt and are looking to get a financial clean slate, contact the law offices of John T Orcutt for a free consultation on how filing a North Carolina bankruptcy can help.