Pennsylvania Legislature Passes Bill To Let Courts Hire Collection Agencies For Fines

HARRISBURG — Common pleas and magisterial district judges would be allowed to hire private collection agencies to pursue overdue court fines and costs under a bill approved Friday by the Pennsylvania Legislature.

The bill that passed the House by a 109-92 vote would apply after a defendant fails to appear for a court hearing on the status of restitution and other court-related financial costs.

Collection agencies would be allowed to retain up to 25% of the amount they recover. A Senate analysis projects it could bring in a few million dollars in the short term and hundreds of millions a year after that.

Backers say much of the unpaid costs are traffic fines from people who live in other counties and therefore have a reduced motivation to pay what they owe.

State court officials say there are about 65,000 cases that owe money, a total of some $16.3 million. The overdue costs and fines are growing by about $1.6 million a year, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.