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Time Running Out on Penalty-Free Court Payments

Those who owe Allegheny County money for criminal fees, fines, and restitutions are advised to pay the debt now, before cases are sent back to collection agencies and higher fees are imposed.

Since early September, the County Department of Court Records has pulled back all outstanding fines imposed before 2005 from collection agencies, so debtors could pay off their obligations without a 25 percent surcharge from those companies. That penalty-free period ends December 30.

Department Director Kate Barkman said that about 59,100 cases still had outstanding debt when the program started this fall. Many have taken advantage of the penalty-free period.

Upon the new year, the department will not only refer the remaining pre-2005 cases to collection agencies, but it will also add any unpaid fines imposed before 2008.

"Since the Department of Court Records was created in 2008, we have not sent cases to a collection company, but we intend to begin doing that in January of 2012," said Barkman.