2019 Tennessee Code
Title 40 - Criminal Procedure
Chapter 24 - Fines
§ 40-24-105. Collection of fines, costs and litigation taxes -- Installment payment plan -- Suspended license -- Restricted license -- Conversion to civil judgment -- Settlement.

Universal Citation: TN Code § 40-24-105 (2019)
  • (a) Unless discharged by payment or service of imprisonment in default of a fine, a fine may be collected in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action. The trial court may also enforce all orders assessing any fine remaining in default by contempt upon a finding by the court that the defendant has the present ability to pay the fine and willfully refuses to pay. Costs and litigation taxes due may be collected in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action, but shall not be deemed part of the penalty, and no person shall be imprisoned under this section in default of payment of costs or litigation taxes. The following shall be the allocation formula for moneys paid into court: the first moneys paid in any case shall first be credited toward payment of litigation taxes and once litigation taxes have been paid, the next moneys shall be credited toward payment of costs; then additional moneys shall be credited toward payment of the fine.

  • (b)

    • (1) Any person who is issued a license under title 55 and who has not paid all litigation taxes, court costs, and fines assessed as a result of disposition of any offense under the criminal laws of this state within one (1) year of the date of the completion of the sentence shall enter into an installment payment plan with the clerk of the court ordering disposition of the offense to make payments on the taxes, costs, and fines owed.

    • (2) The clerk of the court ordering disposition of an offense shall offer a payment plan, which must be reasonable and based on a person's income and ability to pay, to any person convicted of an offense under the criminal laws of this state who requests to make payments pursuant to an installment payment plan or who is required to enter into an installment payment plan in accordance with subdivision (b)(1). A person may request, and the court clerk shall grant, modifications to the payment plan upon a change in the person's financial circumstances or upon good cause shown. If the request for modification is denied by a deputy clerk, then the person may appeal the denial to the chief clerk. If a request for modification is denied by the chief clerk, then the person may petition the court for modifications to the payment plan based upon a change in the person's financial circumstances or upon good cause shown.

    • (3)

      • (A) The court clerk shall inform a person who enters into a payment plan pursuant to this subsection (b) that:

        • (i) Failure to timely make the payments as ordered by the court results in the suspension of the person's license and the issuance of a restricted license; and

        • (ii) Any default on the payment plan while the person is issued a restricted license results in the revocation of the restricted license and the person's driving privileges as described in subdivision (b)(5).

      • (B) The court clerk shall notify the department of a person's failure to comply with a payment plan established pursuant to this subsection (b).

      • (C)

        • (i) Upon notice of the person's failure to comply with the payment plan established pursuant to this subsection (b), the department shall notify the person in writing of the pending suspension of the person's license and instruct the person to contact the appropriate court clerk within the time period described in this subdivision (b)(3)(C).

        • (ii) A person has thirty (30) days from the date the department sends the notice described in subdivision (b)(3)(C)(i) to reestablish compliance with the payment plan or petition the court clerk or court and demonstrate that the person has, in fact, complied with the court clerk's payment plan.

        • (iii) If the person reestablishes compliance with the payment plan or demonstrates to the court clerk or court that the person complied with the court clerk's payment plan, then the court clerk shall issue a receipt or other documentation to the person. If the person presents the receipt or other documentation to the department prior to the expiration of the thirty-day period described in subdivision (b)(3)(C)(ii), then the department shall not suspend the person's license.

        • (iv) A person who fails to reestablish compliance with the payment plan or demonstrate to the court clerk or court's satisfaction that the person complied with the court clerk's payment plan and whose license is suspended in accordance with this subdivision (b)(3) may apply to the court for the issuance of a restricted license. The court shall order the issuance of a restricted license if the person is otherwise eligible for a driver license.

      • (D) If the person does not present the receipt or other documentation to the department prior to the expiration of the thirty-day period, then the department shall suspend the person's license. Upon the person presenting a certified copy of the court order and paying the application fee to the department in accordance with subdivision (b)(4)(B), the department shall issue a restricted license in place of the suspended license.

    • (4)

      • (A) A restricted license issued pursuant to this subsection (b) is valid only for travel necessary for:

        • (i) Employment;

        • (ii) School;

        • (iii) Religious worship;

        • (iv) Participation in a recovery court, which includes drug courts under the Drug Court Treatment Act of 2003, compiled in title 16, chapter 22; DUI courts; mental health courts; and veterans treatment courts; or

        • (v) Serious illness of the person or an immediate family member.

      • (B) The order for the issuance of a restricted license must state with all practicable specificity the necessary times and places of permissible operation of a motor vehicle. The person may obtain a certified copy of the order and, within ten (10) days after the order is issued, present it, together with an application fee of sixty-five dollars ($65.00), to the department, which shall issue a restricted license embodying the limitations imposed in the order. After proper application and until the restricted license is issued, a certified copy of the order may serve in lieu of a driver license.

    • (5)

      • (A) If a person who is issued a restricted license fails to comply with a payment plan established pursuant to this subsection (b), the court clerk shall notify the department of the person's failure to comply with the payment plan.

      • (B)

        • (i) Upon notice of the person's failure to comply with the payment plan, the department shall notify the person in writing of the pending revocation of the person's restricted license and instruct the person to contact the appropriate court clerk within the time period described in this subdivision (b)(5)(B).

        • (ii) A person has thirty (30) days from the date the department sends the notice described in subdivision (b)(5)(B)(i) to reestablish compliance with the payment plan or petition the court clerk or court and demonstrate that the person has, in fact, complied with the court clerk's payment plan.

        • (iii) If the person reestablishes compliance with the payment plan or demonstrates to the court clerk or court that the person complied with the court clerk's payment plan, then the court clerk shall issue a receipt or other documentation to the person. If the person presents the receipt or other documentation to the department prior to the expiration of the thirty-day period described in subdivision (b)(5)(B)(ii), then the department shall not revoke the person's restricted license.

      • (C) If the person does not present the receipt or other documentation to the department prior to the expiration of the thirty-day period, then the department shall revoke the person's restricted license.

      • (D) No sooner than six (6) months from the date of revocation, a person whose restricted license is revoked pursuant to this subdivision (b)(5) may apply with the court clerk for a certification that the person is eligible to be reissued a restricted license; provided, that the person must be actively participating in an installment payment plan in accordance with subdivision (b)(2).

      • (E) Upon the person's application for a certification that the person is eligible to receive a reissued restricted license pursuant to subdivision (b)(5)(D), the court clerk shall certify whether the person is actively participating in a payment plan and request the reissuance of a restricted driver license for the person if the person is otherwise eligible for a driver license. The certification must state with all practicable specificity the necessary times and places of permissible operation of a motor vehicle for purposes described in subdivision (b)(4)(A). The person may obtain a copy of the certification and, within ten (10) days after the certification is issued, present it, together with an application fee of sixty-five dollars ($65.00), to the department, which shall issue a restricted license embodying the limitations imposed in the certification. After proper application and until the restricted license is issued, a copy of the certification may serve in lieu of a driver license.

    • (6)

      • (A) Notwithstanding this subsection (b), if a licensee claims an inability to pay taxes, fines, or costs imposed for a disposition of any offense under the criminal laws of this state due to indigency, the court shall offer the person the opportunity to submit proof of the person's financial inability to pay, which may include a signed affidavit of indigency. For purposes of this subdivision (b)(6), the standard for a claim of indigency is the same as for an indigent person, as defined in § 40-14-201.

      • (B) Upon proof of a person's financial inability to pay, the court shall suspend the person's taxes, fines, and costs. No additional fines or costs accrue against the original taxes, fines, and costs as a result of or during the suspension of the person's taxes, fines, and costs. The court may order the person to reappear before the court for a reevaluation of the person's financial ability or inability to pay the taxes, fines, or costs. If, after the reevaluation, the person:

        • (i) Is no longer financially unable to pay or secure any portion of the taxes, fines, or costs in accordance with subdivision (b)(6)(A), the court shall reinstate the taxes, fines, and costs and apply subdivisions (b)(2)-(5); or

        • (ii) Remains financially unable to pay any portion of the taxes, fines, or costs, the court shall extend the suspension of the person's taxes, fines, and costs and may order the person to reappear before the court for a reevaluation of the person's financial ability or inability to pay the fine or cost in accordance with this subdivision (b)(6)(B). The process described by this subdivision (b)(6)(B) applies until the person fully pays the moneys owed the court or any outstanding taxes, fines, or costs are waived by the court.

    • (7) Notwithstanding this subsection (b), a person will be issued a restricted license or have the person's license reinstated only if the person is otherwise eligible for a driver license.

    • (8) The process described by this subsection (b) applies until the person fully pays the moneys owed the court or any outstanding taxes, fines, or costs are waived by the court.

    • (9) If otherwise eligible for a driver license, any person whose driver license was revoked under this section, prior to July 1, 2019, for nonpayment of litigation taxes, court costs, and fines assessed may apply to the court having original jurisdiction over the offense for an order reinstating the person's license upon entering into an installment payment plan under this subsection (b) or the submittal of proof described in subdivision (b)(6). The person may present a certified copy of the court's order to the department of safety, which shall reissue a driver license at no cost to the person if the person is otherwise eligible for a driver license.

  • (c) The district attorney general or the county or municipal attorney, as applicable, may, in that person's discretion, and shall, upon order of the court, institute proceedings to collect the fine, costs and litigation taxes as a civil judgment.

  • (d)

    • (1) Any fine, costs, or litigation taxes remaining in default after the entry of the order assessing the fine, costs, or litigation taxes may be collected by the district attorney general or the criminal or general sessions court clerk in the manner authorized by this section and otherwise by the trial court by contempt upon a finding by the court that the defendant has the present ability to pay the fine and willfully refuses to pay. After a fine, costs, or litigation taxes have been in default for at least six (6) months, the district attorney general or criminal or general sessions court clerk may retain an agent to collect, or institute proceedings to collect, or establish an in-house collection procedure to collect, fines, costs and litigation taxes. If an agent is used, the district attorney general or the criminal or general sessions court clerk shall request the county purchasing agent to utilize normal competitive bidding procedures applicable to the county to select and retain the agent. If the district attorney general and the criminal or general sessions court clerk cannot agree upon who collects the fines, costs and litigation taxes, the presiding judge of the judicial district or a general sessions judge shall make the decision. The district attorney general or criminal or general sessions court clerk may retain up to fifty percent (50%) of the fines, costs and litigation taxes collected pursuant to this subsection (d) in accordance with any in-house collection procedure or, if an agent is used, for the collection agent. The proceeds from any in-house collection shall be treated as other fees of the office. When moneys are paid into court, the allocation formula outlined in subsection (a) shall be followed, except up to fifty percent (50%) may be withheld for in-house collection or, if an agent is used, for the collection agent, with the remainder being allocated according to the formula.

    • (2) On or after January 1, 2015, if an agent is used, the agent's collection fee shall be added to the total amount owed. The agent's collection fee shall not exceed forty percent (40%) of any amounts actually collected. When moneys are paid into court, the allocation formula outlined in subsection (a) shall be followed, except up to forty percent (40%) may be withheld for the collection agent, with the remainder being allocated according to the formula.

  • (e)

    • (1) The governing body of any municipality may by ordinance authorize the employment of a collection agency to collect fines and costs assessed by the municipal court where the fines and costs have not been collected within sixty (60) days after they were due. The authorizing ordinance shall include the requirement that the contract between the municipality and the collection agency be in writing.

    • (2) The collection agency may be paid an amount not exceeding forty percent (40%) of the sums collected as consideration for collecting the fines and costs.

    • (3) The written contract between the collection agency and the municipality shall include a provision specifying whether the agency may institute an action to collect fines and costs in a judicial proceeding.

    • (4) Nothing in this subsection (e) shall be interpreted to permit a municipality to employ a collection agency for the collection of unpaid parking tickets in violation of § 6-54-513.

  • (f) If any fine, costs or litigation taxes assessed against the defendant in a criminal case remain in default when the defendant is released from the sentence imposed, the sentence expires or the criminal court otherwise loses jurisdiction over the defendant, the sentencing judge, clerk or district attorney general may have the amount remaining in default converted to a civil judgment pursuant to the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The judgment may be enforced as is provided in this section or in any other manner authorized by law for a civil judgment.

  • (g) After a fine, costs, or litigation taxes have been in default for at least five (5) years, the criminal or general sessions court clerk may, subject to approval by a court of competent jurisdiction, accept a lump-sum partial payment in full settlement of the outstanding balance due on a case. The court shall not approve a settlement unless the amount accepted is equal to or greater than fifty percent (50%) of the combined outstanding balance of all fines, costs, and litigation taxes due on the case. When moneys are paid into court pursuant to this subsection (g), the allocation formula outlined in subsection (a) shall be followed, except the percentage that may be retained by the clerk pursuant to subsection (d) may be withheld, with the remainder being allocated according to the formula.

  • (h) [Deleted by 2019 amendment.]

  • (i) As used in this section, “costs” shall include any jail fees or other incarceration costs imposed.

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