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ACT SUMMARY 2007-2008


ACT NO. 51


Court procedures; judicial fines; assistant judges; assault on emergency service personnel; animal cruelty

The act makes a number of changes to the procedures for the payment and collection of fines, penalties, and fees owed to the courts. The act: extends current mechanisms for collection of traffic violation fines to all judicial bureau fines; creates a $10.00 fee for failure to respond to a civil violation; creates a $15.00 fee for failure to pay a default judgment issued by the judicial bureau within 30 days; permits the court administrator to contract with collection agencies for collection of fines, surcharges, courts costs, and any other assessments authorized by law, and to require the judgment debtor to pay the collection agency’s fee; requires the immediate refund of any overpayment greater than $10.00 which a person has paid to the judiciary; permits the court administrator to accept credit card payments for payment of penalties and fines; and authorizes the court administrator to notify defendants who have failed to pay judicial bureau and district court judgments issued prior to September 25, 2006 of the judiciary’s intent to collect the debt through any authorized means, including tax setoffs, and to charge the cost of these mailings against any revenues collected as a result of the process.

The act requires applicants for government licenses to sign a statement that the applicant is in good standing with respect to any restitution orders or unpaid judgments issued by the judicial bureau or district court for fines or penalties for a violation or criminal offense. A license may not be issued or renewed without such a statement.

The act prohibits the department of motor vehicles from renewing the motor vehicle registration of a person who is the sole registrant of the vehicle if the person has not paid a judgment for a traffic violation.

The act extends the sunset from July 1, 2008 to July 1, 2012 on the authority of assistant judges in Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties to hear small claims cases.

The act establishes a municipal ticket repayment revolving fund, administered by the court administrator, for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of incorrectly deposited judicial bureau payments to the appropriate municipality. A municipality may request a loan from the fund in the amount owed to another municipality if the municipality requesting the loan received payments from the judicial bureau between June 30, 2004 and June 30, 2007 that were actually owed to the other municipality for penalties collected by the judicial bureau for violations of an ordinance within the other municipality.

The act requires the judicial bureau to enter judgment against the defendant in all cases in which: (1) prior to January 1, 2007, the defendant filed an answer admitting or not contesting the violation; (2) the defendant paid all or a portion of the fine, penalty, or surcharge; and (3) the issuing officer did not file the original complaint prior to July 1, 2007. The judicial bureau is required to immediately seal the record, and is prohibited from reporting the judgment to the commissioner of motor vehicles. Any funds received by the judicial bureau for judgments in these cases must be deposited in the court technology special fund up to $150,000.00; any funds collected in excess of that amount must be deposited in the municipal ticket repayment revolving fund.

The act also: establishes a committee to study and report to the legislature on certain issues related to victims of sexual assault; extends from June 1, 2007 to July 1, 2008 the prohibition on the judiciary permitting public access via the internet to criminal or family court case records; provides enhanced criminal penalties for assaulting emergency medical personnel; and permits certain

first-time violations of the state’s animal cruelty laws to be charged as civil violations rather than criminal offenses.

Effective Date: July 1, 2007, except for:

(1) Sec. 5, 23 V.S.A. § 2307(b), and Sec. 6, related to the denial of a motor vehicle registration, which take effect on July 1, 2012;

(2) Secs. 3 and 12, related to restrictions on the issuance of government licenses to persons who have filed to any judicial bureau judgments or restitution orders, which take effect on January 1, 2008; and

(3) Sec. 15, related to the dissemination of electronic case records, which takes effect on May 26, 2007.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont