AUGUSTA — Bright pink paper signs inside and outside the Kennebec County Courthouse say the district attorney’s office is no longer taking cash or personal checks for restitution or deferred disposition supervision fees.

The policy, which took effect in Kennebec and Somerset counties Monday, is an effort to ensure safety, said District Attorney Maeghan Maloney. When the courtrooms move to the new Capital Judicial Center, the DA’s office, which will stay in the old Kennebec County Courthouse building, won’t have security officers.

Maloney said the policy change was supported by commissioners and administrators in both counties.

“Certainly our finance department will be very overjoyed that we’re not carrying around cash,” said Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin. He said about $350,000 a year comes in for restitution and supervision fees with up to about 40 percent as cash.

“Bad checks are very, very rare,” he said.

The no-cash policy also means defendants will have to pay a fee at a bank, post office or convenience store to get a cashier’s check or money order, the only forms of payment acceptable.

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“We will direct people to the bank and to the post office to get money orders,” Maloney said. The office does not accept debit card payments either.

Defense attorney Stephen Bourget said the new policy could pose a problem for low-income defendants.

“I don’t see how anyone can refuse cash,” he said. “A postal money order or a bank check costs more. If it’s a $15 payment, you have to add onto that $3-$5 for a bank check. Even paying your fines online, there’s a charge for that and it increases the debt.”

The fee for a bank check from Savings Bank of Maine, for instance, which has an office across from the county courthouse, is $5.

The courts continue to accept cash for fines and other fees.

“I know the alternative sentencing program, they always wanted a money order, but not usually the indigent defendant,” Bourget said.

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Maloney said the no-cash policy will make the workplace safer in the Kennebec County Courthouse, particularly when the superior and district courts and court security officers move into the adjacent Capital Judicial Center, which is to open to the public on March 2.

“We’re not going to have any security here,” she said, looking around the main hallway on the first floor of the county-owned building.

While the district attorney will have a satellite office in the new, state-owned judicial center, the majority of the employees will remain in the historic courthouse.

“For us it’s simply not a safe situation to have many people with criminal cases know in the past we’ve taken cash,” Maloney said. On average, the office collected several hundred dollars a day in cash, in varying payment amounts usually up to $75.

Restitution collected is forwarded to the victims of the criminal offense. Supervision fees paid by those on administrative release or deferred disposition go to the county.

People on probation pay restitution to the probation office.

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Devlin said the county is taking steps to increase security at the county building and that he expects some measures to be in place shortly. The Somerset County budget for fiscal 2015 indicates that $20,000 is anticipated in supervision fees, but gives no indication of how much would be cash. It also did not indicate the amount received for restitution.

Maloney said the policy resembles those already in place in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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