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District Judge Computer System Upgrade Complete; Internet Payments, Increased Access, among New Features Improving Court Efficiency
HARRISBURG –Traffic tickets and other court-ordered fines, costs and restitution issued anywhere in Pennsylvania can now be paid online with a credit or debit card at one convenient location on the state judiciary’s Web portal site .
The courts online payment feature, known as “e-Pay,” was expanded to all magisterial district courts with the installation of a new system between April 2010 and December 2011, creating, for the first time, a one-stop shop for defendants to make multiple magisterial district court and Common Pleas payments on the Internet with a single transaction fee of only $2.75.
“By providing an easy way to settle court-ordered costs, defendants can avoid facing arrests, contempt of court proceedings, driver’s license suspensions and/or additional collection agencies fees,” said Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille.
The state’s Common Pleas courts began offering e-Pay in 2010, and with its expansion to all magisterial district courts by the end of 2011, it is increasingly becoming the method of choice for defendants paying court-ordered fines, fees, costs and restitution. Daily collections through the online payment option have climbed to $140,000, and Chief Justice Castille said it appears to be contributing to higher court collection levels that totaled nearly $470 million in 2011. (See recently released court disbursement reports.)
Unlike credit and debit card payment functions that may exist in some counties, e-Pay is online and fully integrated with both state court systems. E-pay also saves court staff time, allowing them to quickly process payments received without re-entering payment data into the system.
“We are applying technology to improve court management,” Chief Justice Castille said.
The new Magisterial District Judge System (MDJS) supports the management of more than 2.5 million traffic, non-traffic, criminal, private criminal, civil, landlord-tenant and miscellaneous cases filed in the state’s district courts each year. In addition to offering e-Pay, it provides features that make it easier for judges and their staffs to know whether statewide warrants exist on a defendant who may appear in their court, provides statewide bail and sentencing history, and increases capabilities for cross-court actions for night courts and central courts. It also allows for the capture of information on defendant confinement, displays case balances and provides for increased interactions with the Common Pleas Court system. Magisterial district judges and their staff, for example, can see bail actions taken on MDJS cases by the Courts of Common Pleas.
The automation of Pennsylvania’s courts has had a far-reaching impact, not only on improving administrative efficiency and services within the courts, but also enhancing the safety of citizens and law enforcement officials of the Commonwealth. The MDJS and the Common Pleas Court System facilitate the sharing of criminal justice data with various criminal justice agencies through the Pennsylvania Justice Network (JNET). The courts case management systems exchange valuable information with systems in 13 different agencies, including the FBI, Pennsylvania State Police, PennDOT, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing and State Department of Corrections.
Originally developed in the early 1990s with then state-of-art technology, the old MDJS was Pennsylvania’s first statewide case management system that automated all magisterial district judge offices onto one computer network. It moved district judge courts toward more uniform practices and procedures. Rapid computer technological advances over the last two decades, however, have made the old system less compatible with other automated systems and more difficult for the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts to maintain and modify.