Starting in 2018, Texas’ Office of Court Administration (OCA) made changes to the rule that requires Texas counties and cities with a population of 100,000 or more to implement a Collection Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP is meant to improve the enforcement of fines and fees “without imposing an undue hardship on the defendant or the defendant’s dependents,” and it applies to criminal cases where the defendant is put on a payment plan.
The CIP webpage also includes a variety of sample language for court and program staff to use, including “Sample Payment Plan Application” and “Sample First Written Notice.”
- Program staff must conduct an interview with the defendant to review ability-to-pay information and share this information with the court, so that the court may consider alternatives or waivers of fines and fees when appropriate.
- Judges can impose payment plans and defendants must be shown the plan in writing and affirm that they (i) understand the payment plan terms and (ii) believe that they have the ability to meet the payment plan terms.
- Within one month of a missed payment, program staff must make a telephone call and send written notice to defendants. Every notice must include instructions about what to do if the defendant is unable to make payments..
- Ultimately, judges still have discretion in waiving or reducing fines and fees and imposing alternatives to fines and fees.