By SAMANTHA PIDDE
With all civil legal matters required to be electronically filed (E-filed), the Carroll County Circuit Clerk's Office now offers an E-filing Resource Room for the general public.
"We've utilized it a lot," said Carroll County Circuit Clerk Patty Hiher, about the resource room. "It's here for people to get the job done."
E-filing has been mandated by the state since July 1, 2018. However, Carroll County began allowing people to electronically file civil cases in September 2017. Now people can only file a civil case over the counter in the circuit clerk's office if a special exemption is filed.
The circuit clerk's office is utilizing the courthouse law library for the resource room, which includes a computer with access to illinoiscourts.gov along with the site to file for the state.
The room includes a book with step-by-step instructions (in both English and Spanish) for utilizing the e-filing site. People can register on the site, input credit card information, select a case type and begin filing.
"It's a lot, but most people have done very well with it," said Hiher.
Once filing a case has been completed, the person can send all of the documents to the circuit clerk's office where office staff will electronically file stamp and print it.
"It's a multi-use computer. It makes it really easy for people to get what they need," Hiher said.
She emphasized that the computer is not for people to "play" on and several posters decorate the wall of the resource room (directly in front of the computer) offering information about using the system to file and reminding people to only utilize the computer for filing purposes.
"People so far have been pretty good about behaving," the veteran circuit clerk said.
Hiher said she hopes more and more people begin utilizing this service. She said the new e-filing system is excellent for someone who needs to get a copy of their divorce decree or similar document. Once the person pays, the office staff can pull up the document and e-mail the file to the person.
"There's no more postage, there's no more waiting," Hiher said.
People can pay by credit card through the online system and get a receipt in the office. The circuit clerk's office accepts payment through money orders, cash and credit cards.
Hiher cautioned people that it is important to pay any fines on time. Otherwise, they will have to appear in court and the fine amount will increase. People receiving tickets should check the ticket for the court date and call her office if they are unsure.
Hiher said this is especially important now that court fees have increased as of July 1. Various fines and fees have increased, but Hiher said the one that will affect the most people is the increase to $164 for all traffic tickets not requiring court appearances (moving violations, seatbelt violations, speeding tickets, etc.). She pointed out thes increases were set and mandated by the State of Illinois.
"We're only following what we're being told by the state," Hiher said.
Beginning Aug. 5, the circuit clerk's office will have an E-filing resource person by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. This person will help individuals find forms, e-file for court, navigate the computer, make referrals, navigate Illinois Legal Aid Online and more. People may set up an appointment by calling 815-244-0230.
Hiher said neither her office staff or the resource person can provide legal advice, adding that people with serious legal questions should consider hiring an attorney. However, she said for those comfortable with filing on their own, the resource room is a good alternative.
"This is available for the people who know they would like to do it themselves," Hiher said.
The E-filing Resource Room is available during circuit clerk office hours 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hiher said e-filing can take up to an hour and encourages people to stop in no later that 3:30 p.m.