Arizona, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, New Jersey and Oregon are among the growing number of states building relationships with collection agencies to help pursue delinquent court fines.
A poor economy and budget cuts are among the reasons states - as well as local governments - cite for boosting third-party collection agency partnerships over the past five years, according to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).
In New Jersey, municipalities in 2011 were granted the ability to contract with private collection agencies that would attempt to collect through phone calls, letters and other methods.
For a court debt to be eligible for a collection agency, New Jersey courts must have exhausted enforcement remedies" that can include issuing an arrest warrant, suspending or revoking a drivers license or suspending vehicle registration. New Jersey has 511,301 cases eligible for collection, totaling more than $246 million.
Seventeen municipalities in the state currently have contracts with private collection agencies. Another 45 have applied to the state's Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) for permission to do the same.
In Pennsylvania, under a law passed last year, the length of time a collection agency can pursue a delinquent court fee has been increased from six months to four years. If the time expires and notifications remain ignored, the debt goes back to the court for collection, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.