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Good News for traffic tickets!

Posted by on in Houston Bail Bond Information!
(Good news for traffic tickets!)

A Texas criminal justice blogger, "Grits for Breakfast" reported last month that some needed changes were made concerning the Texas Driver Responsibility program. I should mention that Scott Henson (the blogger) played a significant part in helping to bring about this needed change and his blog for those interested in criminal justice is an excellent blog to follow.

In my opinion many of his personal views are a bit skewed. It is not so much that I find myself in total disagreement with him but I feel that many of his suggestions on issues of which he opines have much better solutions and because he tends to follow a liberal welfare mentality that is way too dependent upon tax dollars our views often collide. Nevertheless he is informed and plugged in on criminal justice issues and an activist. He blogs several times a day and he has a regular following of others who stay plugged in, many of whom are elected officials and he deserves praise for his continual efforts and kudos for the part he played here.

The following is taken directly from his blog, "Grits for Breakfast":

A press release from DPS includes this description of the programs approved:

Driver Responsibility Program changes approved

The Texas Public Safety Commission adopted proposed changes to the Driver Responsibility Program rules during their meeting today. The adopted rule will be published in the Texas Register as a final rule in November, and will consist of the following reduction programs:

The Amnesty program:

· Will apply to individuals who have been in default, and the Department will determine the time in default for each amnesty period
· Will reduce amount to 10 percent of total surcharges owed, not to exceed $250
· Will rescind suspension for those who receive amnesty while payments are being made

The Indigency program:

· Will apply to individuals at or below 125 percent of poverty level, using a sworn affidavit
· Will reduce amount to 10 percent of total surcharges owed, not to exceed $250
· Will rescind suspension for those who receive indigency while payments are being made

The press release adds that "The programs will be phased in over several months, with the Amnesty program being implemented during tax season. The Indigency program will be implemented immediately after the Amnesty period ends."

The press release also reminds me that I should have mentioned the new rules include provisions for an "incentive" program aimed at drivers currently paying their surcharges. However, because of the potential fiscal impact, the agency won't immediately be implementing that part of the rules. Instead, the "Incentive program will be evaluated for implementation" in the future.

In a way, it's unfair that noncompliant drivers get a break while those who paid are still on the hook, but that's a function of the politics of the current budget crunch: Half the money from surcharges goes to the state's general revenue fund, and budget folks from the Governor's office feared the incentive program might reduce overall income. By contrast, the state wasn't getting any money from indigent drivers or those who'd already defaulted and lost their drivers licenses, so for the Indigence and Amnesty program the budget impact wasn't a big concern.

OTOH, for the million-plus Texas drivers who've defaulted on their surcharges and lost their driver licenses, the new rules will be a godsend. I'd like to see the agency implement the Incentive program sooner than later, but I also know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth.

This is good news for all and again I applaud Scott for his part. The next step toward more responsible thinking besides repealing the Act in its entirety would be if the Legislature took a close look at how the capias profine warrant provides a negative impact as well.

For those who are not aware of what a capias profine warrant is it basically means that if you receive a fine for a class c misdemeanor which are in most cases traffic tickets and fail to make your installment payments or miss an ordered court date to appear because of an outstanding fine then a warrant is issued for your arrest and the only recourse is to pay the fine in full or go to jail and again the warrant that is issued is called a capias profine warrant.

My suggestion would be to simply re-issue the warrant and give folks the ability to post a new bail bond. In Houston alone millions of class c misdemeanor warrants exist on any given day and many of these exist only because a person has one or more capias profine warrants and are unable to pay the fine in full.

Every bail bond company in Houston receives several phone calls a day from potential clients that wish to take care of their traffic ticket warrants only to find out that their only option is to pay in full. In many cases they have accumulated additional traffic warrants sometimes for no other reason than they had made arrangements for payments after being found guilty on one ticket and still had other violations pending and then before their future court date arrives they miss a scheduled payment or court date and a capias profine warrant is issued. Now they are faced with the possibility of going to jail if they appear for any future court dates and additional warrants are issued for those traffic tickets when they fail to appear.

The problem perpetuates itself in many ways until eventually the person is pulled over and goes to jail.

Many of these folks are in a catch 22 in that the warrant prevents them from obtaining a driver's license renewal and because of survival they continue to drive illegally.

A person will drive with outdated registration and inspection stickers for fear of being arrested when trying to obtain valid stickers.

In many cases a police officer will pull an individual over and discover they have open warrants, the police officer issues a new citation and allows them to go free. The person feels relieved that they dodged a trip to jail but they now have multiple problems and are still unwilling to appear for the new citation being fearful that they will be arrested and go to jail. This sometimes happens several times to a person until finally they do end up in jail.

The scariest of all scenarios is when a person is truly afraid of going to jail and does the unthinkable when faced with the possibility of being arrested and actually tries to evade arrest in a motor vehicle.

The current long standing policy of issuing a capias profine warrant holds no benefit to local government, the public, or the individual.

As it is when these people are finally arrested they represent a cost to taxpayers with no reimbursement remedy. A bail bond cannot be posted in order to place the matter back into the system giving them an opportunity to continue with installment payments and so they are simply sitting in jail until credit for time served is given. The defendant faces loss of work and sometimes loss of employment creating a hardship for the family. So in effect a loss is realized by all when it could easily have positive results for all instead by simply re-issuing the warrant and making it a bondable offense.
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