Drivers take advantage of amnesty

Medford Municipal Court Clerk Denise Bostwick points to the bulging folder on her desk as proof of the success of the court's temporary amnesty program to help drivers with suspended licenses.

The folder is stuffed with traffic citations that have been settled under the amnesty, which allows drivers with suspended licenses to save 25 percent on their outstanding tickets if they agree to pay the fines in full.

The program was approved on Feb. 1 and runs through April 30, and drivers continue to come in to pay their fines to get their license restored, Bostwick said.

"There's not a day that goes by that we don't have people coming in to take advantage of the program," Bostwick said.

Brian Hibet, 26, recently settled his $400 in fines at a discount.

"It will be nice to get my license back," Hibet said. "It will make it a lot easier to find work."

Bostwick noted the amnesty has helped a few people with four-figure fines save a considerable sum of money.

"There's one for $1,000 and here's one for $1,200," she said, leafing through the folder. "We had one for $3,700 a while back. The young man had help from family members to get back on his feet."

The discount saved the man with $3,700 in fines around $900, Bostwick said.

The court has not tallied up the fines that have been collected so far, but Bostwick said it should be substantial.

"It is something the City Council could consider trying again sometime in the future," Bostwick said. "It's not something we'd do on a regular basis, but it could be beneficial at certain times."

She said the program also helps family and friends of those facing stiff fines because they are usually the ones who have to drive the person without a license back and forth to work.

"It makes it easier on everyone when a person with a suspended license can drive again," Bostwick said.

To be sure to qualify, Bostwick advised people to contact the DMV for a list of all outstanding tickets that have led to a license suspension. Many drivers have fines with multiple agencies that need to be addressed before they can earn back their license.

Medford Municipal Court has about 17,000 active suspension requests registered with Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services. The court handles parking, traffic and city ordinance citations issued by the Medford Police Department.

In addition, those who have received traffic tickets from Jackson County Sheriff's deputies, Oregon State Police and the Oregon Department of Transportation weighmaster can have their balance reduced by 25 percent and all interest accrued forgiven under the program.

The amnesty idea has caught on with several other municipal courts in Jackson County, too. Courts in Talent, Phoenix and Central Point are offering the discount until April 30, Bostwick said.

In addition, those who have outstanding tickets issued by Jackson County sheriff's deputies can pay their fines through Jackson County Justice Court at 505 Oak St. in Central Point.

"We also have our collection agency calling people to remind them that they can get the discount," Bostwick said. "We are expecting a bit of a rush as the deadline approaches."

Most municipal courts are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail

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