Crime may not pay, but fines and fees collected from lawbreakers help keep the lights on in the Oklahoma County courthouse.
In 2013, nearly $7.2 million was collected through fines, fees, third-party collections and state income tax return interceptions.
The total cost of operating the Oklahoma County courthouse — minus judge and various court clerk salaries — is $7.4 million a year, Court Clerk Tim Rhodes said.
Fines and fees collected at the county courthouse are actually used for a variety of uses.
The county pays for the majority of the courthouse operations, and funds collected by the court clerk are disbursed to approximately 40 other municipal, county and state agencies.
In 1997, Patricia Presley, then the court clerk, began a program to collect delinquent criminal fees through scheduled payments and by intercepting state tax returns for people who owed fines and costs.
“When I came to this office with her in 1997, we would pick up criminal files from 10, 15, 20 years before where nothing had been paid. The defendants ignored it,” Rhodes said.
“Criminal fines and assessments last forever. There's no statute of limitations on them. You can't bankrupt them. Anything on the criminal side, it's there until you take care of them,” he said.
Rhodes said that his office started intercepting criminal defendants when they made courthouse appearances, and judges sent them to the clerk's cost administration office to pay their fees. Many of those people also had fines and fees from previous cases that they were then ordered to pay.