Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 40: Criminal Procedure

Chapter 24: Fines

TCA 40-24-105: Collection of fines, costs and litigation taxes -- Conversion to civil judgement.

(a)  Unless discharged by payment or service of imprisonment in default of a fine, a fine may be collected in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action. The trial court may also enforce all orders assessing any fine remaining in default by contempt upon a finding by the court that the defendant has the present ability to pay the fine and willfully refuses to pay. Costs and litigation taxes due may be collected in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action, but shall not be deemed part of the penalty, and no person shall be imprisoned under this section in default of payment of costs or litigation taxes. The following shall be the allocation formula for moneys paid into court: the first moneys paid in any case shall first be credited toward payment of litigation taxes and once litigation taxes have been paid, the next moneys shall be credited toward payment of costs; then additional moneys shall be credited toward payment of the fine.

(b) (1) A license issued under title 55 for any operator or chauffeur shall be revoked by the commissioner of safety if the licensee has not paid all litigation taxes, court costs, and fines assessed as a result of disposition of any offense under the criminal laws of this state within one (1) year of the date of disposition of the offense. The license shall remain revoked until such time as the person whose license has been revoked provides proof to the commissioner of safety that all litigation taxes, court costs, and fines have been paid.
(2) The clerk of the court ordering disposition of an offense shall notify the commissioner of safety when an offender has litigation taxes, court costs, and fines that remain unpaid after one (1) year from the disposition of the offense. Such notification shall take place within thirty (30) days of the expiration of the one-year period or as soon as practicable. The commissioner of safety shall not refuse to revoke a license issued under title 55 on grounds that notification was not received within the thirty-day period specified in this subdivision (b)(2).
(3) (A) A person who is unable to pay any portion of assessed litigation taxes, court costs, and fines may apply one (1) time to the court having original jurisdiction over the offense for an order staying the revocation of the license issued under title 55. An order to stay the revocation of the license shall be granted if the court finds that the person would experience extreme hardship from the revocation of the license and that no other means of transportation are reasonably available to the person. Grounds for finding of extreme hardship are limited to travel necessary for:
(i) Employment; or
(ii) Serious illness of the person or an immediate family member.
(B) The offender seeking a hardship exception shall make application to the court in the form of a sworn affidavit stating with particularity the grounds and circumstances of hardship. The court may enter a one-time stay for a period of not longer than one hundred and eighty (180) days. The court clerk shall promptly notify the commissioner of safety of the issuance or termination of any stay of revocation. The commissioner of safety shall not revoke any license under this subsection (b) while the stay is in effect.
(4) A person who is unable to pay all of the assessed litigation taxes, court costs, and fines but is able to pay some of them on a monthly or weekly basis may apply to the court having original jurisdiction over the offense for an order setting up a payment plan for such taxes, costs and fines. If the person and court agree to such a weekly or monthly payment plan, the court shall so order and such order shall have the effect of staying the revocation of the license pursuant to this subsection (b). The order staying the revocation of license shall remain in effect for as long as the person is current and in compliance with the payment plan. If the person fails to make payments according to the plan for three (3) consecutive months without good cause, the court may revoke the order and notify the clerk. The court clerk shall promptly notify the commissioner of safety of the issuance or termination of any stay of revocation. The commissioner of safety shall not revoke pursuant to this subsection (b) while the stay is in effect.
(5) The revocation provided in this subsection (b) is cumulative and does not limit or otherwise affect any license revocation pursuant to title 39, title 55, or any other law.
(6) Nothing in this subsection (b) shall be construed to apply to any license issued pursuant to title 55, chapter 17.
(b)  The district attorney general or the county or municipal attorney, as applicable, may, in that person's discretion, and shall, upon order of the court, institute proceedings to collect the fine, costs and litigation taxes as a civil judgment.

(c)  Any fine, costs, or litigation taxes remaining in default after the entry of the order assessing the fine, costs, or litigation taxes may be collected by the district attorney general or the criminal or general sessions court clerk in the manner authorized by this section and otherwise by the trial court by contempt upon a finding by the court that the defendant has the present ability to pay the fine and willfully refuses to pay. After a fine, costs, or litigation taxes have been in default for at least six (6) months, the district attorney general or criminal or general sessions court clerk may retain an agent to collect, or institute proceedings to collect, or establish an in-house collection procedure to collect, fines, costs and litigation taxes. If an agent is used, the district attorney general or the criminal or general sessions court clerk shall request the county purchasing agent to utilize normal competitive bidding procedures applicable to the county to select and retain the agent. If the district attorney general and the criminal or general sessions court clerk cannot agree upon who collects the fines, costs and litigation taxes, the presiding judge of the judicial district or a general sessions judge shall make the decision. The district attorney general or criminal or general sessions court clerk may retain up to fifty percent (50%) of the fines, costs and litigation taxes to defray the costs of collection, or if an in-house collection procedure is established, the proceeds shall be treated as other fees of the office. The district attorney general and the clerk shall have the costs of collection under this chapter defrayed for all fines, costs, and litigation taxes collected after they are in default. When moneys are paid into court, the allocation formula outlined in subsection (a) shall be followed, except up to fifty percent (50%) may be withheld for these collection costs, with the remainder being allocated according to the formula.

(d)  (1)  The governing body of any municipality may by ordinance authorize the employment of a collection agency to collect fines and costs assessed by the municipal court where the fines and costs have not been collected within sixty (60) days after they were due. The authorizing ordinance shall include the requirement that the contract between the municipality and the collection agency be in writing.

     (2)  The collection agency may be paid an amount not exceeding forty percent (40%) of the sums collected as consideration for collecting the fines and costs.

     (3)  The written contract between the collection agency and the municipality shall include a provision specifying whether the agency may institute an action to collect fines and costs in a judicial proceeding.

     (4)  Nothing in this subsection (d) shall be interpreted to permit a municipality to employ a collection agency for the collection of unpaid parking tickets in violation of § 6-54-513.

(e)  If any fine, costs or litigation taxes assessed against the defendant in a criminal case remain in default when the defendant is released from the sentence imposed, the sentence expires or the criminal court otherwise loses jurisdiction over the defendant, the sentencing judge, clerk or district attorney general may have the amount remaining in default converted to a civil judgment pursuant to the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.  The judgment may be enforced as is provided in this section or in any other manner authorized by law for a civil judgment.

History: [Acts 1972, ch. 729, § 3; T.C.A., §§ 40-3209, 40-3205; Acts 1991, ch. 467, § 1; 1992, ch. 956, § 1; 1996, ch. 826, § 1; 1996, ch. 920, § 1; 1997, ch. 325, §§ 1, 2; 2007, ch. 167, §§ 1, 2; 2009, ch. 570, § 1; 2009, ch. 577, § 2.]