The collection effort of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania is part of the Criminal Justice Reform Initiative directed by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, under the guidance of Justice Seamus P. McCaffery.
In an effort to introduce consequences and to change criminal defendants' behavior, and as part of the Reform Initiative, the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania ("FJD") has launched a series of corrective measures, including the establishment of a bench warrant court where a defendant's failure to appear for a hearing results in contempt charges and other consequences such as incarceration and, for the first time, the collection of bail judgments and fees, fines, court costs and restitution.
The measures seek to prevent the continuing failure on the part of criminal defendants to appear for scheduled hearings. These failures to appear cause trials to be delayed and risk witnesses' loss of memory, inconvenience victims, waste judicial, court staff and police time, and result in increased police over-time.
The collection effort was initiated after the FJD's assumption of the duties and functions of the previously independently elected Clerk of Quarter Sessions which was abolished by City Council in 2010. The Court established the Office of Court Compliance, funded by the City of Philadelphia, to lead the charge in the collection of outstanding bail judgments and mandated fees, fines, court costs and restitution. The collection of this money benefits the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and victims of crimes both directly, through restitution orders, and indirectly.
Upon assumption of the duties and functions of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, the FJD has utilized the statewide Common Pleas Case Management System ("CPCMS") to inform defendants about their financial obligations, to establish payment plans, to record payments made, and to refer cases to collection agencies and collection attorneys.
The description below highlights the process followed by the First Judicial District.
Bail Forfeiture and Bail Judgments are systematically entered after a defendant who is released on bail and who signed a bail bond fails to appear for a scheduled court hearing. The Bail Bond signed by the defendant requires appearance at every court hearing and cautions that a judgment will be entered for the full amount of the bail if the defendant fails to appear for a court hearing. The bail judgment may be vacated if the defendant can show that the failure to appear for the hearing was not voluntary (e.g., because of the defendant's incarceration on the date of the hearing for which defendant failed to appear) or reduced if "justice does not require the full enforcement of the forfeiture order." To seek vacation or reduction of the bail judgment, the defendant must file a motion which will be initially decided upon a review of the case file but the defendant may also request a hearing and judicial review.
Immediately after sentencing, FJD Compliance Officers meet with defendants to establish an appropriate payment plan for the payment of fees, fines, court costs and restitution consistent with the sentencing judge's order. Compliance Officers also hold conferences when defendants seek reduction of their monthly payment due to a change in financial circumstances, and conduct delinquency conferences when defendants fail to make their monthly installment payments. If appropriate, the monthly amount may be decreased when the defendant demonstrates reduced income after presenting the necessary information.
Finally, the FJD refers cases to collection agencies or collection attorneys when defendants fail to pay their outstanding fees, fines, court costs and restitution, fail to appear for scheduled payment plan conferences, or fail to update their addresses with the court as required. Upon referral to a collection agency or collection attorney, the defendant must pay a 25% collection fee, as allowed by law, in addition to the outstanding balance.
The goals of the FJD collection effort are to foster respect for court orders, to insure that those defendants who have the financial ability to pay court imposed financial obligations do so, and to provide a forum to enable those who are unable to pay to seek deferral of their payment obligation.
The links below provide more detailed information and forms related to the FJD collection effort.
PAYMENTS FOR BAIL JUDGMENTS
Bail Judgment payments cannot be made through ePay (http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/ePay/).
Bail Judgment Payments can be made by mail or in person as follows:
First Judicial District Accounting Department, P.O. Box 37711, Philadelphia, Pa 19101-5011
Checks and Money Orders, Payable to "First Judicial District of PA"). Do not mail cash
9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
The Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice, 1301 Filbert Street (Basement), Philadelphia, PA 19107; OR
Accounting Unit, 1401Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
Cash, Credit/Debit Card, Checks and Money Orders Payable to "First Judicial District of PA."