Those getting a traffic ticket in South Carolina still won’t be happy about a citation, but paying the fine now should be less of a hassle.

The South Carolina Judicial Department recently completed a rollout of its Judicial Case Management System, which allows for online payment of tickets in all 46 of the state’s counties. Tickets can now be paid using a credit card or debit card either in-person or online, making the payment process faster and more efficient.

“The main goal was to make it easier for citizens to have access to the courts and be more convenient to pay their fees and fines, especially out-of-state violators,” said Scott Hayes, applications manager of the South Carolina Judicial Department. “The No. 1 question that was asked is, ‘Can I pay with a credit card?’ and No. 2, ‘Can I pay online?’ They are paying their bills [online] at home, so we wanted to provide the same sort of functionality and ease to do that.”

The system, which also serves as an online storehouse for statewide court information such as case status and history, connects South Carolina’s circuit courts — which handle criminal and general issues — and its magistrate courts, which handle lower court cases.

Hayes explained that the project has been 10 years in the making, starting in 2001. Using federal grant funds, the state put in case management systems, case networks, rewired buildings and provided equipment so that the courts could all share information and bring the legal system in line with current technology.

“Previously all of our counties were independent, with their own systems,” Hayes said. “Over the years, we’ve gone out individually, county by county and converted all their data. We provided conversion and training for all the courts in the state, so it has been a long process.”

Evolution Continues

Upgrades to the online court systems in South Carolina are just beginning. Hayes revealed that the courts are focusing on a lot more electronic records filing and laying the foundation to give people statewide better access to the courts. He said a number of database projects are in the works to help improve information flow, both for the public and the legal community.

A new electronic family court system is planned for 2013, as are similar projects for South Carolina’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Attorneys practicing in the state also have some modernization headed their way, pertaining to identification and notification.

Hayes said a networked contact system for lawyers is also forthcoming. Currently attorneys have to individually keep all 46 state counties abreast of changes to their contact information. That will change in October, making it easier for the courts to get in touch with lawyers who have pending cases and business in various jurisdictions.

“One of our biggest hurdles is that we want to do e-mail notifications,” Hayes said. With the attorney contacts system, lawyers will be able to keep their information up-to-date with the state Supreme Court, and all counties will interface into this system to get real-time information.

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.