Picture this: you get a traffic ticket. You can’t pay it off, so there’s a late fee. You can’t pay the late fee, so there’s a collection fee. You definitely can’t afford it now, so your license gets suspended.
What options do you have?
A new Alachua County program, Project Fresh Start, may help.
The initiative will waive collection fees on traffic and court costs and coincide with a driver’s license clinic for those who need to get their licences restored.
From June 10-14, residents can call or go to either of the two courthouses — located at 220 S. Main St. and 201 E. University Ave. — to pay their fines. J.K. Irby, Alachua County Clerk of the Court, said the aim is to help those who need a hand.
“It is an opportunity for folks who have fallen behind in court costs to go ahead and get those taken care of,” Irby said. “It’s the clerk’s office trying to help some folks clear off some past debts of court obligations that may be holding them back.”
Only collection fees, which occur after a payment has not been made within a 90-day period, will be waived — late fees will not be, Irby said.
According to the clerk’s office, there are thousands of outstanding collection fees.
Collection fees are 30 percent of the ticket price for civil traffic citations and 35 percent of the ticket for criminal traffic citations, according to the clerk’s office.
In the same week, the clerk’s office will be hosting a driver’s license clinic on June 13 in which residents with suspended licenses can make a plan to get their license restored.
Irby said the office is looking to help the entire community including those whose drivers licenses were suspended due to unpaid traffic tickets.
While the clinic may happen again, Irby said the community should not count on it being an annual event.
Courtney Rouse, a 25-year-old Gainesville resident of four years, said she agrees with giving second chances to those who are not able to afford the collection fee.
“In the end, the tickets are there to make us safer,” Rouse said. “But if they make people worry about their income and license, it’s not really helping.”
Ripley Olmstead, a 20-year-old UF anthropology sophomore, thinks the initiative is a step in the right direction in breaking the cycle of monetary penalties those in poverty face. Vicious cycles of poverty result from a lot more factors than these fees, though, Olmstead said.
“I’d like to see this kind of program on a much larger scale,” Olmstead said. “For long-term change, there needs to be larger impacts.”