The Sharp County Sheriff's Department has appointed an officer to sever Show Cause orders to collect money owed from as far back as 1999.
Judy Qualls, Administrative Deputy for Sheriff Mark Counts, explained the orders are for contempt of court for non payment of fines and/or court costs.
Qualls said the department has sent out letters to over 600 felons convicted within the county, and has been receiving calls about the fees. She said most say they were not aware of the fines. Qualls explained if a person thinks they may owe a fine, it is important that they contact the department.
The process begins with a letter signed by Sheriff Mark Counts that is taken to the judge by Tina Hall of the prosecuting attorney's office. After the judge signs the orders declaring the defendent has failed to pay the fine, the paperwork is filed with the Circuit Court Clerk's office, where the Show Cause Summons is issued and delivered to the officer to serve.
Initially, the defendant will be served papers documenting they have been served and will appear in court on the given court date to answer the charges regarding lack of payment.
If after being served the papers, the defendant fails to appear in court, the cost escalates. In addition to the original fines or costs, a warrant may be issued for failure to appear, which results in more fines, court costs and possibly jail time.
Qualls stressed the importance of making payments when they are initially set up by the court. She said the prosecutor's office is supportive of the effort to help recoup money the county is owed.
Once the defendant appears before the judge, they are asked to explain the reason for not making payments. The judge can order them to once again begin paying a designated amount on the charges to the Sheriff's Department, allow them to pay in full, or, if the defendant fails to appear, a warrant will be issued for their arrest.
Anyone who feels they may owe fines, or have not been making their payments as ordered, are encouraged to call the Sharp County Sheriff's Department at 994-7356 before the Show Cause Order is served.