This legislation makes several changes to Texas courts’ imposition and collection of fines and fees, with a particular emphasis on defendants’ ability to pay and alternatives to fines and fees for indigent defendants.
This bill repeals the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) and all associated fees. The DRP contributed significantly to driver’s license suspension for unpaid fines and fees in Texas.
This bill, which did not pass, would have limited the use of arrest for fine-only offenses in Texas.
Plaintiffs argue that their Equal protection and Due process rights were violated because of the inadequate notices, lack of inquiry into their ability to pay, and the suspension of their licenses solely because of their inability to pay.
Khalid Salahuddin never received notice of fines and fees that led to his driver's license being suspended. He lost a job offer because he had no license.
Graciela Rodriguez is a 76-year-old caregiver who takes three different buses for five hours to get to work each day. She receives Supplemental Security Income. Her license was suspended because of unpaid Driver’s Responsibility Program (DRP) surcharges.
Fuller received a ticket for an expired inspection sticker. Because he entered an inpatient rehabilitation program, he missed the hearing for his ticket. When he later appeared in court, the judge informed him that he was charged with failure to appear and that he needed to pay the full amount of the fines and fees he owed. No inquiry was made as to his ability to pay.
During the summer of 2018, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice voted to reduce the price of phone calls made from Texas prisons. Previously, incarcerated people paid an average of $0.26 per minute to call their loved ones; now the rate is $0.06 per minute, and the time limit for calls was increased from 20 to 30 minutes.
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 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.”
This report is a culmination of a year of research that involved interviews conducted with 380 people who made contact with systems of justice in eight states and were assessed fines and fees.