Traffic fine payments modernized -- almost
I recently got a parking ticket. In the past, you had to either pay by mail or go in person to court, but I noticed there were two other options listed on the citation: via the Internet or by telephone. That sounded great, but here's where it gets bad. The day before my deadline for paying, I decided to go the Internet route. So I went on the Traffic Court Web site -- www.courts.state.hi.us
-- and clicked on "pay fines." But it said the site was being updated, so there went that option. I thought, "OK, fine." So I call. It is an automated system, where you have to say your citation number. It took me three tries before it goes through. I was put on hold, then I'm told that my citation is not in the system. After a few more minutes, I'm able to get through to a person. So far, this seems like the typical bureaucratic system. But then I'm told by someone that "this system has not been working since the beginning of 2006." This is when I started getting very upset.
Apparently there have been a lot of complaints about this. Why isn't there any notification on the Web site that you really don't have the option of paying via the Internet or by phone, or have those options crossed out on the citation? Why lead the public to believe they can pay those ways when apparently the system hasn't allowed that for months? It was a big waste of my time.
Answer: If you could have just waited another day.
We're being facetious.
We asked about the non-functioning payment systems on Tuesday, the day we received your complaint, and were told Friday that the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system and online eTraffic payment system "have been operational since Feb. 22" -- Wednesday.
However, not everyone may be able to utilize the two payment options, for reasons we'll explain later.
On behalf of the Judiciary, spokeswoman Marsha Kitagawa apologized for "the inconvenience and aggravation" caused you and others who tried to access the two systems with no luck.
"We had fully expected to have these systems up and running on Jan. 1," Kitagawa said. Everyone "who tried but were unable to pay fines between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22 are understandably frustrated and upset."
She cited various problems that caused the delay.
One had to do with a change in citations. Before Jan. 1, citations showed only one violation.
Police officers started issuing new, multi-charge citations on Jan. 1. About two weeks after that, Judiciary officials, "embroiled in the multitude of tasks associated with launching a huge and complicated integrated statewide management system," found out that payments for a multi-violation citation could not be accepted, Kitagawa said.
The vendor, ACS, was asked to change the system to accommodate the new citations.
Although the reprogramming was time-consuming, she said ACS made the change as soon as it could at no extra cost.
Another problem included the unanticipated inability of the new software to recognize or "read" new case ID numbers, she said.
While dealing with these problems, officials corrected mispronounced Hawaiian names of courthouse locations (such as Mamalahoa, Kekuanaoa and Halekii streets) throughout the IVR script, Kitagawa said. Hawaii Public Radio donated staff time and the use of its studio and equipment, she said, while one of the judges volunteered to re-record parts of the instruction so that the Hawaiian words are pronounced correctly and are recognizable.
But even after overcoming the problems, Kitagawa said a shortage of staff "still contributes to making the online and IVR payments unavailable to some users."
She explained that payments cannot be made electronically until a citation has been entered into the case management system. Police officers have 10 working days from the date a citation is issued to submit the citation to the court.
The court staff then must enter the citation into the system. Although most citations are entered within three days, some of the busier or understaffed courts have been taking longer, Kitagawa said.
A response to a citation must be made within 21 days.
"The Judiciary recognizes that the online payment option is a convenience to the public and undue delay in entering the citations into the system is not acceptable," Kitagawa said.
She said the Judiciary will continue to address the problem of late data entry, but the bottom line notice to the public: you may have to resort to the old ways -- either mail the payment in the pre-addressed envelop that is attached to the citation or pay in person at District Court.
Kitagawa also pointed out that people can make partial payments when paying by mail or in person. The phone and online systems DO NOT accept partial payments.
Meanwhile, regarding advance warning, Kitagawa said that if a "warning script" is not already online, "we will have one posted ASAP."
Got a question or complaint?
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