Credit cards can be used to pay fines, court costs in Forsyth County

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Forsyth County residents don’t have to bring cash anymore to pay fines and court costs.

They can use their credit or debit card.

The county became part of a pilot program last month that allows people paying fines and court costs for a criminal matter or paying filing fees for a limited number of civil matters — such as estates and foreclosures — to use a credit card or debit card from a major company.

The N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts has bought card readers and other equipment to start the program, said Susan Frye, the Forsyth County clerk of court.

“Most people have debit cards and credit cards,” Frye said. “It’s also a convenience for the court system.”

To process those payments, people will have to pay a $1 fee as well as an additional fee that represents 2.5 percent of the total cost, Frye said.

The program started Dec. 19, Frye said.

The plan is to take the program statewide in 2015.

Forsyth is one of six counties in the pilot program, said Justin Furr, a spokesman for the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. He said that the cost of the program is more than $300,000.

Furr said that other counties will be added throughout the year.

Since the program started, the system has processed 172 transactions and collected more than $28,000, he said.

State legislators mandated a cost-effective system for the acceptance of credit-card payments for court costs as part of the budget that was passed last year.

Legislators asked the state court officials to designate at least five counties that don’t accept credit card payments to participate in a pilot program by Jan. 1 of this year.

Frye said that the clerk’s office handles a large amount of money through the collection of fines and court costs. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013, Forsyth County took in $2,025,990 in fines and court costs, Frye said.

In fiscal year 2012-2013, North Carolina collected $30.7 million in fines alone, according to a report by the N.C Administrative Office of the Courts.

“It’s inevitable when you handle money, there are going to be human errors,” she said. “This (program) helps eliminate that.”

People can still pay minor traffic citations online using a credit or debit card where they can waive a court appearance. But for other fines and court costs, people will have to come to the Forsyth County Hall of Justice, Frye said.

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