Some victims of vehicular crimes are starting to receive restitution years after courts ordered offenders to pay up.
That's because of a new state law inspired by York County Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell, who was frustrated he had no means to collect payment from those who chose simply to ignore the orders.
His complaints prompted state Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Springettsbury Township, to introduce a bill in 2012 that allowed counties to suspend the driver's licenses of people delinquent in paying restitution and other court-ordered fees.
The bill became law last year and is working just as planned: Scofflaws who in the past showed no respect for court orders and their victims tend to act when their freedom of movement and ability to make a living are threatened.
"They're quick to rectify that in most instances," O'Shell said.
For the first time during his 10 years in office, the amount of restitution owed decreased last year, from $3.2 million to $2.5 million – even as judges ordered another $392,000.
O'Shell's office last year suspended the driver's licenses of more than 1,530 people delinquent in paying restitution and other court-ordered fees, and restored the driving privilege for about half of them after they either paid in full or entered into a payment compliance plan.
Not in the least.
These are people who caused harm to others.
The money collected from them helps their victims repair property damage or pay hospital bills not covered by insurance.
Unfortunately, some victims have waited years, sometimes decades, for the offenders to accept that responsibility.
Previously, counties had no means of collecting restitution beyond sending notices and forwarding the debt to a collection agency.
That could affect an offender's credit, but the fact is some people could care less about their credit-worthiness.
They do, however, care about driving – and going after driver's licenses was a brilliant idea.
We think lawmakers should find a similar stick to use on those who owe restitution for non-vehicular crimes.