RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Washoe County officials say more than $19 million in court fines and fees has gone uncollected in the county since 2000, because nobody is going after what is owed.
A recent audit showed that people convicted of crimes have not paid $19.5 million in fees and fines.
Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty said the county and the courts haven't set up a system to collect the money.
``The county's collection division isn't doing it _ the court doesn't have the staff to do it,'' Hardesty said. ``At a time when we're struggling for resources, we need to get our house in order from a business standpoint and collect what we're owed.''
Connie Steinheimer, chief judge of Washoe District Court, says convicts often don't have money to pay fines and prisoners have no income.
``I don't truly believe that money is going to be collectable,'' Steinheimer said. ``If a person is willfully unemployed, yes, he may go to jail. But we don't have a debtor's prison.''
Hardesty says that about 70 percent of those convicted of crimes in 2007 were sentenced to probation and should have been paid.
He is hoping lawmakers will pass legislation this session to create a statewide collection agency to pursue the unpaid money. He also wants Nevada's congressional delegation to support a federal effort to use tax refunds of those who have not paid court-ordered fines to collect the money.
The recent audit showed that in many cases, fines are simply listed in a file and not ever paid.
Auditor Alison Gordon said that of 54 criminal cases studied, 39 defendants went to prison and 12 were given probation, but the courts didn't collect any money.
``None of the criminal cases tested showed any evidence the court had made efforts to collect the amounts due,'' Gordon said. ``None of these offenders have paid any fees and fines, and the court has not ordered penalties for this noncompliance in any of the cases.''
The audit also found that $69.3 million remained unpaid in restitution owed to crime victims.