Orange-Osceola Chief Judge ends practice of collections court arrests


  • Photo by Joe Gratz via Flickr

A month after Orange-Osceola Public Defender Robert Wesley called for an end to “low-value” arrests of people who can’t afford court fines, Chief Judge Frederick Lauten says he will void 21,000 arrest orders for people who did not show up to collections court, and in the future, stop jailing them, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The issue came to light after the Orlando Police Department arrested 61-year-old hospice patient Larry Thompson on a judge-ordered writ for failing to pay court costs related to a 2010 charge of driving without a license. The Orange County jail wouldn’t accept Thompson because of his fragile physical condition, so he was sent to the hospital, where he was chained to the bed.

Lauten says judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit will not issue writs for collections court, and that there are more effective means of collecting money owed to the court. The Sentinel found in its reports that the Orange County's Collections Court program is the only one in Florida where "judges can order the arrest of defendants who fail to appear at the hearings and pay." 

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