1982: Paying alimony in pennies gets Morgan County man sent to jail for six days

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT)-  Back in 1982 WHNT News 19 did a story about a Morgan County man who decided to pay his alimony in pennies.   A Morgan County judge said Norman Guthrie was making a mockery of the court and sentenced him to six days in the county jail.

The story above originally aired on February 24, 1982.

Guthrie likely could have appealed the judge's sentence to a higher court and won.   That's because United States Code says pennies can be used to pay debts to the court.

Title 31, Subtitle IV,  Chapter 51, Subchapter I, Section 5103 of the United States Code states:

United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.

However, Guthrie did not appeal the decision and served his six days in jail.  He told us back in 2013 that he no regrets.


      • Michael

        And what exactly would my crime be?

        I should have added, if I’m found guilty of my alleged traffic offense. I’ve had 2 in my life dismissed.

      • NoMoreMarxistsInDC

        Once again, the government is bamboozling the public about traffic tickets. Traffic tickets are CIVIL in nature. Alimony is a CIVIL matter. The US Supreme Court and Federal Courts of Appeals (especially in the Ninth, Eighth, Seventh, Sixth, Fifth, and Third Circuits) have held that probable cause to arrest for a crime CAN NEVER EXIST IN A CIVIL MATTER!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Alimony is not normally paid directly to the court. Perhaps the pennies were just an example of his actions and attitude that made a mockery of the court. It is not surprising that he had no regrets. People like that rarely are capable of thinking they are wrong or considering how their actions impact others.

  • Rowland Bussler

    How would this apply to paying for merchandise at a convenience store? Over the last year in Lincoln County, Tn. ( and the Nation as well I imagine), there has been a growing number of convenience stores taken over by foreigners. One store in particular, Jeff’s Market in Flintville, has an owner with a reputation for becoming irate with customers that attempt to make any purchases with change. Does he have the right to refuse service to customers strictly based on his not wanting to accept change fpr payment for goods?

  • Anonymous

    Back in the day yes you went to the courthouse and paid your child support directly to the probate office. If places of business does not want to take pennies why do they not ban them. What is next no, nickles , dimes , quarters.. ?? This country is so greedy its going to eat itself away in time to come. Nothing is ever good enough for someone.

  • sharisse

    I think it is hilarious that he paid his alimony in pennies. The ex wife probably didn’t even deserve that much!! Think I will be paying my next ticket in pennies!!! After all, tickets are so expensive you have to save your pennies to be able to save for the ticket and pay bills!!!

  • NoMoreMarxistsInDC

    An insurance company just paid a claim of $21,000 in buckets of coins to a 73 year-old man because he won a suit against the insurance company for having their goons rough him up for asking questions about his policy and trying to cancel it because the company has cheap rates, but has poor customer service, BBB negative ratings, and doesn’t pay off. http://rt.com/usa/178552-adrianas-insurance-coin-settlement/.

  • Country Boy

    In Huntsville at the courthouse on Wheeler Ave my money was refused by the overpaid employee behind the glass because I had 200 dollars in one dollar Sacagawea coins. The goon that stands there by the metal detector threatened to arrest me when I argued with the goofball behind the glass stating that the dollars were legal tender. The person simply didn’t want to count it! I had to leave and get paper dollars and was told not to return with anything less than a ten. They should have picked Huntsville instead of the World Trade Center in 2001!

  • Ray

    I have seen this sort of thing done before. However all the person is doing is being difficult because they really don’t want to do it. It is true that he was just trying to make a point by being defiant by paying in pennies to make it inconvienent to the court. Even banks dont like to take in huge amounts of coins because it takes a while to count them. I agree with the judge that the guy was trying to make a mockery out of the court and should spend time in jail for contempt which he most likely was charged with.

  • TBD

    This story is 32 years old. Can’t WHNT find something recent to report on? OR, is WHNT getting ready to do a story on airlines that refuse legal tender for on board purchase?

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