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Law Enforcement Agencies Work Together To Crack Down On Unpaid Fines

Houston Municipal Courts and the Houston Police Department say if there’s a warrant for your arrest, you still have some options.

The annual Great Texas Warrant Round-up, a statewide initiative between Texas jurisdictions that runs throughout March.

Any violators with outstanding citations, traffic tickets and ordinance violations are subject to arrest in any county.

"They may be saying to themselves, look, I can't afford this $300 that I owe and I'm afraid that I'll go to jail if I drive and that is quite a possibility," said Gwendolyn Goins, a spokeswoman with the Houston Municipal Courts.

Houston and other municipalities in Texas have been conducting the warrant round-up for 10 years in order to collect fines that have gone unpaid for a substantial amount of time. Past round-ups have generated millions of dollars in revenue for the state.

American Civil Liberties Union of Texas disagrees with what they consider to be severe penalties the warrant round-up imposes on violators. It's illegal for Texas judges to jail somebody unable to pay a fine, Trisha Trigilio, an attorney with ACLUTX, said. Yet, it's a practice repeatedly seen in municipal courts throughout Texas.

"The fact that a traffic ticket — for example a failure to signal — can explode from $66 to over $500; if you're a person that's too poor to pay that ticket, that's a problem that we have statewide. Because it's due to fees that are imposed by the state legislature," Trigilio said.

Both the ACLUTX and Houston Municipal Courts say residents of Harris County, still have several options to avoid going to jail. Some of these include payment arrangements and community service. But judges also have the option to issue full or partial waivers, Trigilio said.

"What we're saying is, if you come in voluntarily to work out an arrangement with us, you won't be arrested while you're in court," Goins said.

Goins recommends Houstonians call 311 or 713-837-0311 to verify if a warrant exists in their name.


The following video shows Houston Police serving warrants during the 2015 Great Texas Warrant Round-up.

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