$400,000 in traffic fees owed to citizens remain in judicial system

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The majority of the nearly $1 million owed to citizens who had gotten traffic tickets in East Baton Rouge Parish will remain in the judicial system.

That is because only several hundred people filled out the application for reimbursement by the December 31st deadline.

When most people go to court it is usually to handle a legal matter or to pay a traffic ticket.

The department that collects those fines for the 19th Judicial District spent the last couple of months reminding visitors to check a list of thousands of people who were owed a refund on earlier traffic fines.

Judge Don Johnson, who presides over traffic court, said he even reminded people to take a look every chance he could. "Some citizens said to me, I'm not coming down there to get the money. You think I'm coming back to court," Johnson said.

For the last couple of years, traffic fines included a $50 fee the EBR Metro Council approved to help build a misdemeanor jail. But several months ago, council members voted to not build it. The state then ordered that the money be returned. Judge Johnson said the balance $461,472.44 at the state court.

According to his records, 886 people were refunded a total of approximately $30,000. "It's unfortunate because I would have preferred the legislature to simply authorize us to rebate and issue checks to all those citizens," Johnson said.

But that, he said, would have required a special session. Now the remaining $430,000 will be split between the court, the District Attorney and the Public Defender's Office. Judge Johnson said, for now, the court's cut will go into an expense account until the district judges decide how it will be spent.

There are nearly one thousand applications that have yet to be reviewed. As long as they were turned in before December 31, Johnson said, they will be considered for a refund.

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