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Something as simple as online payments can improve access to justice

January 18, 2023

By Dimarie Alicea-Lozada

The imposition of fines and fees can create burdens both in terms of finance (as individuals struggle to pay), and time (as individuals must take time off work to go to a courthouse to make payments, sometimes regularly monthly). In the last few years, several courts have moved to address time, the second burden, by offering online or remote payment options.

Arizona’s off-site cash payments program began in March 2020 and allows payment of fines and fees outside the courthouse using cash. The program helps especially those who live in rural areas where it can take hours to get to the courthouse. Customers make payments at well-known retailers like 7-11, Family Dollar, and other participating stores. This system also helps people who do not have a bank account or a credit card to make online payments. Employees do not have to take off work to go to courthouses that are only open during limited business hours.

New Mexico started a new payment processing system in March of 2022 that allows customers to pay their fines and fees, postage, and even copies using a credit card. The program directs users to a portal page where they can pay for fines and fees in appellate, district, and participating magistrate and municipal courts. A similar program began for West Virginia Magistrate Courts in September 2022. The West Virginia Administrative Office of the Courts developed a portal where people can make payments using their case number without having to go to the courthouse. The system includes a charge for each transaction that covers the cost of the system.

Other courts have been offering these services already. There are minor differences in these systems, but their purpose is the same.

Is your court implementing online payments? Share your experiences with us at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.