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Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney gets warrants for delinquent DUI offenders

Monday, Mar. 10 | By Mark Grandstaff | Google+
Commonwealth's Attorney James Fisher
Fauquier County has obtained arrest warrants for several drunk drivers who have - until now - dragged their feet on paying their fines.

About 20 people have been served with the warrants in the past couple weeks, said Commonwealth's Attorney James Fisher. The warrants come as the "final tier" of a delinquent fee collection program Fisher started two years ago. His office has targeted delinquent offenders who have gone more than 6 months without paying their fines. Because many of them live in or near Fauquier County, sheriff's deputies and allied law officers can pursue them more vigorously than could the state's tax department.

Many of them, Fisher said, have had jail time suspended as part of plea agreements. That suspension comes with a number of strings attached - one of them being the payment of fines.

"The monetary penalty is part of your punishment," Fisher said. "If you didn't get a jail sentence and you refused to pay your fine, then you actually haven't been punished at all."

More than $1 million a year in delinquent fines go unpaid in Fauquier County, Fisher said. Two years ago, Fisher allied with the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office and Fauquier County Treasurer Tanya Wilcox to try to collect fines that, until that point, where the responsibility of the state tax department.

The state had written off two thirds of Fauquier's fees as uncollectable. Fisher thought the locals could do better. Now, when delinquent fines are paid, 30 percent goes to the county's coffers, instead of Richmond's.

Fisher's plan to put pressure on delinquent offenders appears to be working. According to a release from the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, the county's collection of delinquent fines has gone up for the past four years, from $363,182.75 in 2010 to $448,012.12 in 2013.

"We're not just throwing out arrest warrants for everyone who failed to pay their fines, just the serious offenders," Fisher said.

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