URBANA - Want to know when your next date is in traffic court or how much you owe on that speeding ticket? Good news for those with computer access.
Champaign County Circuit Clerk Linda Frank has now put traffic files on her office Web site. Available at www.cccircuitclerk.com, the traffic records went online earlier this week. Already available for free are criminal, civil, small claims and probate cases.
Frank said she decided to add traffic after talking to a number of individuals from several different backgrounds who participated last month in a seminar on the future of the courts. Overwhelmingly, the message emerging that day was that the courts need to be more accessible and user-friendly.
?I really feel the records belong to the public. They don't belong to me, they don't belong to the courts. Unless a record is impounded or expunged, the public should have them. Now that the access is free, it will be easier for the public to take a look at those records,? she said, adding that she's awaiting direction from Chief Judge John Shonkwiler on exactly what can and cannot be made available to the public online.
And given that far more people have traffic tickets than small claims or criminal cases, it made sense to add traffic to the system, she said.
At the first of this year, Frank made the access free to the public. There had previously been a fee to subscribe, ranging from $50 to $200 per year for not-for-profit agencies, law firms and private companies. Additionally, there was a $15 per person charge for each person who wanted access.
?Last year, without a lot of public interest, we averaged 1,300 calls a day,? she said. ?I'm assuming now that the public can have free access, that number will increase. I'm hoping that our server will be able to accommodate all the lines.?
Frank said if people do experience ongoing difficulty getting computer access, they should call her office.
Besides providing a public service, Frank is hopeful that the online access will take some of the load off her clerks, who now have to look up cases and answer questions.
All the cases that are online can be accessed by either name or case number.
Information available for traffic cases includes the offender's name and address, when and where the ticket was issued, for what it was issued and the police officer who issued it.
It also shows the docket, which is a written summary of the history of a case.
The cost of the public access system runs Frank's office about $1,200 a month, she said. That is paid by user fees which are collected as part of court costs paid in all traffic, civil and criminal cases.
Frank said the automation fund currently has a balance of about $550,000, $500,000 of which is earmarked for her office's portion of a new computer system expected to be installed later this year.
?I believe it's worth the price to offer free information to the public,? she said.
You can reach Mary Schenk at (217) 351-5313 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.