Texas is looking for an alternative option for those that cannot afford to pay their tickets. To no surprise, court officials are against the idea. There is a fine line between helping individuals that are in need and enabling those who refuse to help themselves.
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Most people don’t have the extra money lying around to pay a ticket, but somehow you find a way because that’s the way our system works. So should there be an alternative way to “pay ” your fines -instead of going to jail- that still benefits the county or state? Input from court officers who deal with these people everyday, and perhaps even know them on a first name basis, surely needs to be considered. Here’s what some of them have to say.
The chief clerk at Bowie county seems to think this is a step in the wrong direction.”Don’t think by giving them this help that they are going to go out and get insurance-no, not going to happen. What is going to happen is our court loses and once again the defendant wins no lesson is learned, and where is the Justice. Remember the day in Ferguson when the Payless Shoe store got looted? Well guess what not a single pair of work boots were taken. Go figure!”
A court collections officer in Burnet County, north of Austin, wrote “People have told her they cannot afford fines, but then gotten arrested multiple times for public intoxication. So they have money for their beer but not money to pay their fines and fees?”
These comments, and many others, were submitted in response to a proposal by the Texas Judicial Council. They suggested giving judges more explicit guidelines to help determine people’s ability to pay and more leeway to extend their payment deadlines.
As of now Texas law prohibits jailing people who cannot afford to pay their fines, unless they are offered community service instead and refuse to do it.
Janie Harris, a judge in Walker County, wrote “I appreciate the fact that those who TRULY do not have the ability to pay; not those who just DO NOT CHOOSE to pay, be given as much consideration as possible to take care of the consequences of their choices and decisions.” Other options need to be explored, however, because the new plan is unnecessarily complex and time-consuming, she said.
Agreed. Other options should be available, because no one should have a free ride. What about a payment plan? Working off your fine? Heck, you could even save up all your pennies and pay the fine as this man did. Just as long as you pay – somehow.