WILKES-BARRE — In an effort to collect outstanding fees and court costs, the Luzerne County Probation Office will be enforcing an act signed by the governor that could tack on additional time a defendant’s driver’s license is suspended.
Michael Vecchio, director of the Luzerne County Department of Probation Services, said the office will be enforcing a court compliance project, beginning Monday for defendants participating in the county’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program on driving under the influence charges.
Vecchio said his office is aware of several hundred people who are in default on fines, courts costs, fees and restitution.
According to the act, which became law on Jan. 8, they could face additional driver’s license suspensions if those payments are not made by Aug. 1. “It’s part of their sentence,” Vecchio said. “It’s ordered by the court.”
When defendants become involved in the ARD program, they are required to pay any monetary amounts, complete a period of probation and any recommended programs. Once they successfully complete the program, their criminal record is expunged of those charges.
The court compliance project zeroes in on ARD participants who have charges involving DUI.
“The average amount of outstanding costs is about $1,000 per person,” Vecchio said. “Some may go up to several thousand dollars, and that means a victim is involved and restitution needs to be paid.”
Vecchio said the program affects ARD participants from 2004 to 2010, and that beginning Monday defendants have until Aug. 1 to pay any outstanding costs.
If the costs are not paid, Vecchio said, a defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended until those costs are paid. “And, the ARDs themselves would not be expunged unless the monies are paid in full,” he said.
The court compliance program calls for accountability for defendants, said Vecchio, and the money collected is helpful to the probation department, state and county.
“Sometimes people stop paying when their probation ends, and that’s not the case,” Vecchio said. “Anyone in this group is fully aware of what they owe and that they didn’t pay us.”