Columbus cuts deal for people owing fines with Amnesty Program

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – The City of Columbus has a limited-time offer for people with outstanding fines in Municipal Court.

Normally, if you haven’t paid up, a contempt warrant can be issued which means more fines and possibly jail, but in an effort to get more people to settle up the city is ready to cut a deal.

Life happens. People forget to pay old traffic fines, maybe they thought they had paid but didn’t or maybe they went to jail for another crime and thought their record was wiped clean once they were released. But sometimes those old fines come back to haunt them.

The city is trying to help.

Wendy Blunt is the Columbus Municipal Court Administrator.

She said the court system has rolled out an amnesty program that allows people who have old fines a chance to enroll in a payment plan to get those tickets taken care of.

“We’re going to waive that contempt warrant fee of $412. Where it used to be, you had to pay the contempt charge, $412 on top of whatever you owe. So what we’re going to do from now until April 15, we’re waiving that fee,” said Blunt.

To be clear, you still have to pay the original fine.

But Blunt said the court will work with you on a payment plan if you don’t have the full amount upfront.

“We have fines here from 2000, 1985, and so on. They don’t go away. So if you go off and be incarcerated, the fine still stands. We’re not in the business of putting people in jail. We want you to be comfortable enough to come to us. We’re always here to help. We never wanna go in and just stack, stack, stack. We get a bad rep about that but we’re here to help,” said Blunt.

Blunt said the courts understand life happens. She said the system just wanted to lend a helping hand.

“We want everybody to be at the least compatible, compliant…we want all of that. We don’t want anybody to feel like, ‘Hey they’re targeting me. It’s just y’all want money. It’s not that we want money. We just want to help our city,” said Blunt. “And we understand COVID came, jobs were lost. We know a lot of people who don’t work, who don’t have jobs. But we have, once again provisions set up to help those in need. So just come see us, that’s all we want.”

Blunt said the offer ends on April 15. If you have not enrolled in the program by that date, you will be required to pay that $412 contempt warrant fee on top of your original fines.

Blunt said those looking to take advantage of the program are required to speak with the administration in person to avoid privacy and security concerns.

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