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October 25, 2012

Program helps individuals get rid of bench warrants

NORMAN — Officials have come up with “Operation Clean Slate,” a program that will give citizens a chance to appear at a court docket dedicated to setting up new payment plans.

The program was put together by officials in Cleveland County — including Sheriff Joe Lester, Special District Judge Steve Stice and Court Clerk Rhonda Hall — to help people clear outstanding court fines and avoid jail time. The program begins Nov. 1, and Judge Stice will oversee the dockets.

Stice said he will not be waiving any of these fines and costs but will recall the warrants and allow defendants to make new payment plans.

“The judges of Cleveland County expect these fines and costs to be paid,” Stice said. “The reality of the situation, however, is that these warrants sometimes discourage payments. Defendants are afraid to come to the courthouse. They are afraid to seek employment, knowing they have an active bench warrant.”

Stice said the program provides those individuals an opportunity to have a clean start on paying the obligations “with the peace of mind of knowing there is no longer a warrant hanging out there.”

People will need to visit Stice’s courtroom on the fourth floor at the Cleveland County Building, 201 S. Jones Ave. Representatives will be available from the court clerk’s office, sheriff’s office and Stice’s office.

Times and dates for “Operation Clean Slate” are listed below:

· 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1

· 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8

· 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Nov. 16

· 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29

Sheriff Lester estimates that the program will clear a large amount of the 5,000 outstanding costs warrants. Deputies can focus their time on crime-solving instead of serving these warrants.

Lester said the operation will alleviate inmate space in the Cleveland County Detention Center, as well.

“This operation serves a range of purposes,” he said. “Together, we can help people clear up court fines and stay out of jail at the same time.”

Hall said this alternative speeds up the court process.

“This will give people the chance to come in and take care of the problem versus being arrested and accumulating additional fines,” Hall said.

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