The Franklin County Municipal Court processed 21,470 cases between 2016 and 2019 and 2,255 were dismissed.
Last year alone 711 traffic tickets were dismissed, and 44 planning and zoning cases never even made it to the court docket.
According to records obtained through Sunshine requests to the court, guilty judgments were issued in 19,221 of those cases, resulting in fines and court costs totaling $2,874,571.
Of the total, the county collected $2,404,831 in the four-year period and an additional $469,740 was never recovered.
County records show 2017 posted the highest number of collections at $663,034 with an additional $150,684 charged but never collected.
The following year, overall charges were slightly lower, but fines and court costs not collected were the highest at $206,825.
Total fines and court costs collected in 2018 was $598,174.
The county municipal court was established in 2012 in part as a measure to reduce the workload on the 20th Judicial Circuit courts in processing traffic tickets written by the county sheriff’s office, planning and zoning and building violations.
The creation of the county-run court would also ensure more funds from fines and court costs went directly into the county coffers.
According to a former municipal court prosecutor, about 50 percent of the tickets written by sheriff’s deputies are simply paid by mail, an additional 10 percent are never paid, leaving 40 percent which are actually addressed in the court setting.
Since 2016, the number of municipal court cases has increased by 2,000, in direct correlation with the number of tickets written by the sheriff’s department.
This means more fines and court costs being paid to Franklin County each year.
Each year many tickets written by county law enforcement are at the state level.
In 2016, sheriff’s deputies wrote 4,037 tickets, of that, 3,942 cases were processed through the municipal court. Records show 274 were dismissed and fines were issued in 3,708 cases.
In 2017, there was a drastic increase in the number of tickets written (1,930), which, according to Sheriff Steve Pelton, was a result of full road patrol staffing and efforts to reduce the total number of roadway deaths in Franklin County.
The increase in tickets, led to an increase in municipal court cases and the number of dismissed cases nearly doubled.
Deputies that year wrote 5,961 tickets and 5,818 were processed in the municipal court.
Fines were issued in 5,223 cases and 595 of the tickets were thrown out.
For 2018, the number of tickets dropped by a few hundred, but the total number of cases thrown out increased by 80.
Of the total 5,716 tickets, 5,670 of those made it to the municipal court. Fines were issued in 4,995 cases and 675 were dismissed.
Last year, 2019, saw the highest number of tickets written, cases dismissed and was the second highest year of fines collected at $646,108.
Deputies issued 6,135 tickets and 6,000 were processed in the municipal court. Fines were issued in 5,295 cases and 711 were dismissed.
The court averaged 500 cases per month in 2019.
Planning and Zoning
In addition to the traffic tickets, the municipal court handled 82 planning and zoning violations between 2016 and 2019.
Last year, 2019, the planning and zoning department sent 44 violations to the municipal court prosecutor and zero made it to the court docket.
In 2016, the court heard 40 cases, 35 of which were complaints generated that year. The additional five cases may have been generated the previous year and some cases may have been filed multiple times.
Planning and zoning sent 20 cases in 2017 to the municipal court and only eight were tried.
In 2018, the court heard 34 planning and zoning cases, 20 of which were sent that same year.