Texans using online court payment system

Texas scofflaws are racing to use E-Court Inc.'s new online court payment system that enables people to pay their traffic tickets and court fines online with a credit card or electronic check and avoid having to go back to the location where the ticket was issued.

"Interest has been phenomenal about it," company spokeswoman Lisa Onstot said. "We want to become known as the payment provider for the courts."

The system, which hit the market Aug. 1, has been well-received in communities throughout Texas. E-Court (www.ecourtinc.com) is planning to launch the product on a national scale.

The system was developed by company founder James Chadwick, who got the idea after spending three days trying to pay a ticket he received in the southern part of the state. Chadwick previously has developed software solutions for IBM Global Services, Dell Computer Corp., and other Fortune 500 companies.

The Internet-based system is operated by the company, which handles all of the electronic commerce transactions and then passes payment along to the courts. E-Court provides the software, hardware and World Wide Web interface for local courts and then charges the courts a monthly fee for the service. The company has five signed contracts, 11 letters of intent and more than 25 other contracts in review, Onstot said.

D.E. Sosa, city manager in Giddings, Texas, one of the towns that has signed with E-Court, expects to have the system in place by September. Sosa said he liked the idea because of the layout of the state and the large number of small towns and major highways.

"People are always having problems figuring out where they got their ticket," Sosa said. "We feel like it's so much more convenient for someone to be able to go on the Internet and pay their ticket than having to drive all the way back here to do it. The whole idea just boggles my mind."

The entire payment process takes two to three minutes, Onstot said. Users log on to the Web site, agree to pay their fine by credit card or check and are assessed a transaction fee -- $2.50 for credit cards and $3.50 for checks -- similar to service fees charged at automated teller machines.

Denton, Texas, asked for a little more from E-Court. The city wants to put a kiosk system in place in addition to offering the Web-based solution. "We put a wicket in their project plan...but they said they would research it and do it with us," said Alex Pettit, director of information services for the city. "It's different from what they're doing in other places because we want a turnkey proposal, and that's what we're trying to put together here."

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