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Arizona Courts Partner to Accept Payments Through Retailers

In an effort to streamline the payment of fees and fines, state courts are now accepting payments through convenience stores like Family Dollar and 7-Eleven with the help of industry partners.

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Many Arizonans needing to pay a parking ticket, or other court-related fine, can now pop into a convenience store and pay in cash.

The Administrative Office of the Courts in Arizona state has partnered with the Fines, Fees, and Restitution Enforcement program (FARE), a division of the Arizona Judicial Branch, to accept payments at stores like Family Dollar and 7-Eleven.

The payments are being facilitated by PayNearMe, a payment processing platform which allows government agencies to collect government payments via retail outlets.

“Our cash platform has been helping businesses and agencies serve the un- and under-banked population for over 10 years,” said Anne Hay, vice president of marketing for PayNearMe. “In addition, our service eliminates the need to handle cash onsite or bound residents to hours and locations availability.”

Walking into a 7-Eleven to pay a parking ticket is probably a little easier than standing in line at a courthouse pay window, or other government office. But it will cost you. The service charges a $2.99 “convenience fee” for each transaction, said Chris Cioffi, senior project coordinator for the consolidated collections unit at the Arizona Supreme Court.

“There are no additional fees from the court,” he added.

The PayNearMe service is available at about 27,000 retail locations across the country, and roughly 200 to 300 across Arizona, said Cioffi.

Conduent Transportation, a transportation management software firm, is also involved. Conduent registers the cases with PayNearMe, and then creates collection notices, which include barcodes and instructions about how to pay at a retail location. The barcode is unique and can be re-used, or stored in a digital wallet for a recurring payment. Cash payments are posted to the account in real time. The program allows for payments in civil or criminal cases, but does not handle payments for warrants, probation payments, child support or other family court costs.

“We support violation processing and collections for other municipal courts, but this is our first collaboration of this kind with PayNearMe,” said Neil Franz, director of external communications for government and transportation at Conduent.

“The cashier scans the barcode, takes the cash payment, and gives a receipt,” explained Hay. “The barcode is in the store’s UPC system, so the resident can purchase a snack and pay their obligation in the same transaction.”

Some 178 Arizona court systems participate in the FARE program, though five are not yet participating. Those include: Maricopa County Superior Court, Mesa Municipal Court, Tempe Municipal Court, Gilbert Municipal Court and Paradise Valley Municipal Court.

Putting the courts on the PayNearMe system required minimal upgrades, said Cioffi.

“The program utilizes an existing capability that allows the courts to accept online credit card payments. Our vendor that provides the existing online payment capability had to develop a new interface to the PayNearMe network,” Cioffi explained in an email.

Prior to partnering with the PayNearMe system, court transactions could be made by paying in cash, personal check, cashier’s check, credit or debit card at the courthouse.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.