A pilot program in Morgan County allows motorists receiving traffic citations from troopers or deputies in the county to resolve them online by paying the fine, attending driving school or asking for a trial date.
Morgan Circuit Clerk Chris Priest said the online program (traffic.alacourt.gov) was made live late last week and had its first user, a female motorist, send in a request for driving school at 11:17 a.m. Monday.
District Judge Brent Craig said Morgan is the only county in Alabama offering the online options, which focus on convenience for ticket recipients. He said it also offers an opportunity for motorists to offer proof of insurance or completion of repair work.
“People no longer have to come to the courthouse to resolve ticket issues,” Craig said. “We want people to be able to pay, know how to request driving school or set a court date all virtually.”
Craig, chairman of the state court system’s technology commission, said the panel began formulating the program in June 2019 to handle small claims issues, with Morgan County as the pilot county.
“This was before the pandemic,” he said. “Once the pandemic hit us, we flipped it over to TR (traffic cases) because it would be beneficial to more people. The pandemic certainly makes it all the more important.”
Priest said the online site only addresses tickets issued in the county by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office or Alabama troopers. He said in fiscal 2020, which was Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020, his office handled 5,835 traffic tickets, other than DUIs.
“Last year, we had fewer than 100 people request a trial,” he said.
Priest said smart phones can be used for the online ticket resolution (OTR) program. He said his office will process the online request and pass along cases needing a judge’s attention.
“This program allows people not having to take time off their job or those with pandemic concerns not having to come to the courthouse to deal with traffic tickets,” Priest said.
He said online users will need to confirm a working email address, their current address and can pay via Visa, Mastercard or Discover credit cards. Users also can set up a payment plan and will have 90 days to settle the debt.
“Using technology to make the court system more convenient and accessible for the citizens of this state is extremely important to Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker and the state court system’s administrative director, Dr. Rich Hobson,” said Craig. “We are going to see how much interest we get on that. And if there is sufficient interest, we will have some trials virtually.”
Craig said Zoom, a video conference service, has allowed the state to conduct virtual hearings for more than 70,000 cases.