Albany -- Albany traffic court judges are offering amnesty for defendants in two thousand backlogged cases.
The cases, that date back two decades, total $600,000 in uncollected fines for minor traffic offenses and drunk driving charges.
If the 2,400 people pay up now, they won't be held in contempt of court.
It was a shed fire in back of Dewey Hall's house that sent him to municipal court for a code violation. "I went to court, I went to jail and I still respect the judge. He's sitting on the bench," said Hall.
Plus, he was afraid of getting into bigger trouble for not showing up. He said, "I assume that if you have a court date and don't come to court that it's contempt of court."
And he's right. But more than 2,000 people haven't shown up to municipal court in Albany in the past two decades. Chief Judge Willie Weaver says until he took the bench nothing was done about it. "I would sign warrants, they would go to the police department, be placed in a drawer and nobody would actually serve them," said Weaver.
Those drawers of warrants added up. And so did the amount of money owed to the city. "There is like $600,000 in money sitting on warrants," he said.
Money he wants to collect on. And to do it, he's offering an amnesty program. If you show up to court and pay your original fine, you won't have to face jail time and an even bigger fine for not showing in the first place.
"I'm going to forgive the $70 and most often when you're in contempt you go to jail," he said. "I'm not going to require anybody go to jail unless it's an offense that requires jail time like DUI."
Or a possession of marijuana charge. Weaver says he appreciates folks like Hall who showed up in the first place, but says he had to do something to wipe the slate clean.
"The only way I could figure out to try to clear up the backlog, collect some of the money for the city and allow people to get their lives back on track was to do it this way," said Weaver, "but I apologize to the citizens who did what they were supossed to do."
The city expects to collect at least half of the $600,000 in fines during the amnesty program which begins Monday and extends through the entire month of February.
Here is a press release from the Albany City Manager's Office
The Albany Municipal Court has developed a limited "Amnesty Program" for individuals who have outstanding warrants issued by the Albany Municipal Court.
Chief Judge Willie Weaver, Mayor & Board of City Commissioners are offering limited amnesty to all such persons.
The amnesty program works as follows: The amnesty program will remove the court cost and/or the warrant amount from each of the warrants and the warrant will be dismissed, if the offender is prepared to pay the amount of the offense at the time that he/she appears before the court the warrant shall also be dismissed.
However, the Defendant must appear before the court and make the request to receive the amnesty.
The names, addresses of the person on whom the warrant was issued and the warrant number will be published in the Albany Herald, the legal organ, and will released to other newspapers , listed on the city's website under the Municipal Court and City Cable Channel (16), and will also be released to WALB & Fox 31.
The Amnesty Program will begin January 28, 2008 thru February 29, 2008.
Should your name appear on the warrant list, and it is your desire to be placed on the court's calendar to receive amnesty or to find out if there is a warrant on you, please contact Deputy Clerk Beverly Evans at 229-432-8192.