Claremore Daily Progress

October 7, 2012

County due $110,000 in uncollected fines

Court Clerk Czapansky not filing driver’s license suspensions since January 2012

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — Rogers County Court Clerk Candi Czapansky is facing tough questions in light of a recent discovery that her office has not been properly filing driver license suspensions according to state statute.

The biggest problem is in the area of traffic violations in which people do not show up for an assigned court date or fail to pay a fine associated with misdemeanor offenses.
More than 400 offenders have failed to appear or pay in Rogers County between  Jan. 1 through Aug. 2012, according to the Oklahoma State Court Network, OSCN. 
At a minimum fine of approximately $200 plus court costs of an estimated $75 each, this adds up to approximately $110,000 in uncollected fines.
The failure to pay or failure to appear issues cost taxpayers thousands each year as court cost are not recovered when fines are not paid.
Additionally, offenders face no real consequence for crimes like speeding, however if their driver license is suspended as mandated under state statute it brings more accountability to those individuals, according to local law enforcement officers.
Czapansky said there were a number of reasons why her office has not followed the statute for the past two years. 
“There is a procedure in the computer that can be followed to send out a letter to notify people that fail to appear that their license could be suspended,” she said.
Czapansky said that time restrictions from the date the issuance of a ticket is part of the reason the statute has not been followed.
Additionally, computer issues have been a contributing factor, she said.
For example, Czapansky said that sometimes suspensions do not get lifted when the fine is paid or that paperwork was sent to the wrong county from the state office.
However, these issues occurred when the computer system was first launched a few years ago, according to Czapansky.
“I have not looked at this in a couple of years,” Czapansky said.
She added that she currently only suspends a license under direct court order from a judge.
“There is a provision that says we are allowed to use the failure to pay suspensions,” Czapansky said. “It is something the office can do but is not required to do.”
Czapansky provided this initial response during a previous interview with the Claremore Progress.
Friday, Czapansky contacted the Claremore Progress to notify us that after the interview she contacted Judge Dwayne Steidley.
Steidley advised her that under the state statutes she is required to suspend drivers licenses for both failure to appear and failure to pay.
“After speaking with Steidley and other judges, under their instruction, I will start doing the driver license suspensions,” Czapansky said.
Czapansky offered no further explanation of why the office had not been compliant with the statute for years.
Czapansky did explain previously that it did not appear to be an issue that cost taxpayer money and continued to place the focus on computer issues.
 “I don’t see where this was generating anymore revenue,” she said.
Police Officer Buddy Cook weighed in on the topic during an interview as he stated this is not a new issue for Czapansky.
“To my understanding it is statutory to file them [drivers license suspensions] and she [Czapansky] she is not doing it,” Cook said.
Cook said he brought the issue to Czapansky approximately two years ago and asked her why it was not being done.
“I asked her [Czapansky] why, she said ‘I don’t want to,” Cook said.
He added all she [Czapansky] had to do is send out the notices, yet she hasn’t and “she is breaking the law.”
Additionally, 50 percent of people will come in and take care of a ticket if they receive a suspension notice, Cook added.
Cook was not the only officer to comment but others were unable to do so on the record due to their current positions with different law enforcement agencies.
Multiple complaints and comments were given to the Claremore Progress regarding the issue.
The issue is bigger then simply not filing paperwork the officers explained.
Essentially, if they don’t pay, they don’t drive. Those who choose to drive with a suspended license can face severe penalties.
Driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor, under Oklahoma Statute 47, § 6-303.
Fines can range between $100 and $1,000 and can carry a one-year sentence in jail. 
Another issue with the lack of compliance is the prohibitive nature of the warrant system. 
Although warrants will be issued for the individual’s arrest the system does not communicate across all law enforcement agencies or state lines.
Unless the offender’s license is suspended then it is very difficult to catch them. This means the court clerk; state and Department of Public Safety have a limited ability to recoup court expenses.
Additionally, these lawbreakers are given the opportunity to become repeat offenders, which creates a greater public safety issue.