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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: March 2, 2021 04:55 PM
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne
To: All Senate members
Subject: Referral of unpaid fines, fees and restitution to a collection agency for MDJ and Common Pleas debt
In the near future, I intend to re-introduce legislation that was introduced as Senate Bill 1139 of the 2019-20 legislative session. This legislation will provide for the referral of unpaid fines, fees and restitution for Magisterial District Judge and Common Pleas debt to a collection agency when a Defendant fails to appear.

The proposed legislative change will remove the hurdle that MDJ courts statewide have faced in being able to refer a case to a collection agency when a Defendant absconds or fails to appear at an ability to pay hearing. As it stands, an unpaid MDJ/Summary debt cannot be referred to a collection agency until a Defendant has a financial determination hearing.

If the Defendant fails to show, whether intentional or not, the matter can still not be referred to a collection agency. These debts, particularly traffic violations, are often incurred by violators outside of the county. There is no incentive for them to appear and the only recourse in place is to hand over the matter to the local constable to have them appear before a District Judge.

This proposed amendment will create an incentive for all defendants, especially out of district defendants, to pay their debts timely, and not reap the benefits of not appearing at a financial determination hearing. The language also includes a notice provision to address any due process issues.
Cosponsors of Senate Bill 1139 of 2019-20 included Senators Mensch, Martin and Stefano.

Introduced as SB516