State makes online payments available to probationers

By Terri Flagg -

A new online payment system for probation-related costs was launched statewide last week by the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.

Probationers with eligible cases can visit to make payments instead of having to visit the clerk’s office in person or pay by mail.

In addition to the added convenience for citizens, the Online Collections And Payments system (OCAP) is also expected to cut down on long lines in clerk’s office, reduce paperwork and improve accuracy.

“I think it’s going to be very beneficial to the public,” said Betty Asbell, head bookkeeper for the Surry County Clerk of Courts. “The way people are in such a hurry, none of us have time for anything.”

According to information supplied by the N.C. AOC, the state processed probation payments totaling more than $14.2 million in fiscal year 2014-15.

The program was modeled after the successful payNCticket program, which was launched in 2010. However, the two payment sites are entirely separate from one another, and “they have to realize that,” said Asbell.

The OCAP can only be used for probation cases that have been tried in court with a conviction date on or after January 1, 2011, for supervised probation and January 1, 2015, for unsupervised probation.

She noted that the clerks’ workload will not be significantly reduced as they will still need to verify the transactions on the back end. Offenders will have to verify their case file number, the county that issued the charge and use a major credit card in order to use the system.

Cashier lines are not as problematic in Surry County as in larger counties where “it’s like being at a concert,” she said, adding that wait times can be lengthy on traffic court days when 500 or 600 cases are processed.

The bookkeeper considered that one of the biggest benefits to the new system is for offenders, for whom transportation is often a barrier.

“I’ve had people who have walked from Mount Airy just to make a payment,” at the Dobson courthouse, she said. “I think it’ll be really great.”

The system was was developed over three months at a total cost of $159,472, and piloted in Chatham, New Hanover and Wake counties prior to statewide implementation, according to a N.C. AOC statement released Tuesday.

“It is a great online tool that is part of the larger ongoing initiative to modernize the North Carolina court system,” stated Judge Marion Warren, director of the N.C. AOC.

By Terri Flagg

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

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