Four Ways to Clear Your Docket

August 26, 2019 by Meredith Trimble

How to Move From Case Management to Case Resolution

Four Ways to Clear Your Docket

A traffic citation is issued and the offender, now defendant in a case on your docket, drives away. What happens if that person doesn’t pay the fine and resolve the case within 30 days? How about 90 days? What happens if that case remains open for 120 days or longer?

With an ever-growing number of cases vying for municipal court resources, the longer a case remains open, the more work it takes to close. That’s why courts around the country are turning to technology to lighten the load.

From the moment a case lands on the docket until the final payment is received, the following four tools not only help courts resolve cases quickly and effectively, they empower individuals to take ownership of their court experience.

1. Online Case Resolution

Many cases that require individuals to appear in person and pay a fine can be resolved entirely online. Using a citizen-facing web portal, courts can change the way they interact with defendants by directing them to manage their tickets and pay fines online rather than by waiting in line. This simple change drastically increases compliance rates and also decreases the number of customers court clerks have to serve in person.

2. Online Case Records

For many municipal courts, connecting with justice partners requires an in-person visit to gather information about specific cases. With the same citizen-facing online portal, however, courts can move beyond that in-person option. Rather than going to a courthouse and waiting for a clerk to manually locate and print papers, attorneys, police, and other parties can simply log onto the website and search for the information they need, including the court docket schedule.

3. Automatic Notifications

When defendants fail to show up for court dates, the court’s caseload builds and resource investment expands to include warrants and even arrests and incarceration. Failure to appear (FTA) rates drop significantly with automatic text and phone notifications. These custom messages occur in an audited environment and cut through moves and unopened junk mail, speeding compliance and resolution while relieving the court staff of manually handling communications. In addition to these automatic notifications, engagement tools like Inbound Voice Response (IVR) systems help reduce the amount of payments clerks have to manually accept as well as decrease the number of calls about case information, court hours, and location.

4. Instant Accessibility

In large or growing areas, physically visiting the court may be as much of a barrier for the public as the ability to pay a fine. Courts can partner with local businesses to add kiosks and payment centers in strategic locations throughout a jurisdiction for a more equitable distribution of system access. Using payment collection software that automatically updates the court’s case management system (CMS), defendants can more easily access the justice system without further delaying the court’s docket. In some cases, a defendant may be able to e-file the appropriate documentation directly into the court’s CMS using a citizen-facing portal.

Innovative uses of modern technology not only lighten the load for courts in an environment of increased caseload and reduced resources, they accelerate access to justice. This leads to more equitable and inclusive communities.

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