Tulsa County recalling failure to pay warrants in exchange for donations

Posted at 5:20 PM, Nov 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-14 12:06:23-05

TULSA -- The Tulsa County Courthouse is offering to get rid of failure to pay warrants in exchange for food donations.

Between Nov. 20 and Nov. 22, people can bring at least 10 nonperishable food items to the courthouse to have their warrant recalled. At that point, they will structure a new payment plan to get back on track. The donations will go to the Broken Arrow Neighbors group.

Donald Newberry, the Tulsa County Court Clerk, estimates there are between 10,000 and 20,000 active failure to pay warrants in the county and millions of dollars owed. 

Newberry said that money would go towards paying for jurors, public defenders, administrative costs and more.

"When they don't have these fees collected, the money that supports the court system has to come from somewhere which would be the taxpayers," Newberry said.

The warrants are issued when someone fails to set up a payment plan for the money a judge ordered them to pay or when they do not pay. 

Back on July 28, 21 people were on the arraignment cost docket that meets twice a week. Of the 21 people, 11 of them had only fines holding them in jail. At the next court date, three of the 10 were held for the same reason. Between July 28 and Nov. 3, there was at least one person on every docket being held only for failure to pay.

The county clerk prefers to collect the money owed rather than put someone in jail.

"It's always more cost effective for them to set up a payment plan," Newberry said. "It's cost effective on the county. It's cost effective on the taxpayers. It's cost effective for the individual." 

That is why the county is holding the "Food Drive Amnesty" program. 

"Basically it's kind of like a pass, a free get out of jail card so to speak," Newberry said. "They can come in, accept that payment plan and absolve that warrant." 

Before 2017, the last time a program to recall failure to pay warrants was in 2004. 

This is the second time the courthouse has done one this year. Back in July, 400 people showed up.

"That program required a $150 down payment on their cost," Newberry said. "This program is significantly less in cost because of the outreach to the community so this program we expect to see more participation."

Newberry suggested calling the courthouse to find out if you have any active warrants. 


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