Whenever anyone is driving around Greeley, one thing they want to avoid is being pulled over for breaking a traffic law. On the occasion someone is pulled over, they’re issued a traffic ticket, also known as a municipal violation. When this occurs, one thought immediately goes through their mind: “What’s the quickest way to get this over with?”

A municipal violation requires paying what is known as a municipal fine, and the quickest and easiest way to do this is to pay online. Most people take advantage of this option and have their fine paid off weeks before it’s due. This means most people walk away with the belief that municipal fines are little more than a simple errand on their “To Do” list.

Because most people share this experience, the general public is left with only one perception of municipal fines: a citizen is pulled over, issued a fine and then quickly and easily pays online. The End.

Though this is how municipal fines are commonly described, not everyone shares this view. For those who fail to pay their fine by the Court’s deadline, whether online or in person, municipal fines aren’t so quick and effortless. For those who fail to pay, it’s a harsh realization that there’s much more to municipal fines than our society is aware of. Instead of a simple one-time payment, those who fail to pay face future court dates, a number of added fees, the possibility of serving time in jail, being sentenced to perform community service to pay off their debt and more.

But instances such as these are rarely paid any attention, as they directly contradict the generalizations that form public opinion. Claims that municipal fines are difficult or distressing challenge the generalization that municipal fines work just fine, that they’re fair, just, swift, and unproblematic in all cases and that there’s no need for any investigation into the matter. Those who fail to pay are pushed into the shadows where they’re left without any support, representation or even public knowledge of their existence.

Municipal courts deepen this divide by allowing those who’re able to pay to do so early (either by phone, by mail, online, or in person). This allows most people to avoid ever even having to attend municipal court. If there were no early payment options then everyone, not just those who didn’t pay early, would have to attend municipal court. And if everyone attended municipal court it would eventually become impossible to overlook those whom, as of right now, the majority is unaware of. Without mandatory court dates for everyone, though, the public will continue to define municipal fines the same as they do now. Taking early payment options away is just one idea that could be used to end the divide between those who see no problems with municipal fines and those who have their lives completely altered by them.