For Immediate Release: June 30, 2020
Kelli Johnson, Texas Appleseed
Karly Jo Dixon, Texas Fair Defense Project
Texans Struggling with Unpaid Tickets Get New Self-Help Resource
Online toolkit covers courts, alternative sentences, warrants, and more
AUSTIN, Texas — Ticket Help Texas is a new online resource by advocacy and legal organizations Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project that provides information for Texans who are unable to pay fines and other costs as part of fine-only criminal cases, including traffic tickets.
The toolkit, available at www.TicketHelpTexas.org, covers a range of topics for people in an effort to help people who do not have their own legal representation in Class C misdemeanor cases: advice for appearing in court, how to prove inability to pay fines, alternative sentences for people who cannot pay like community service, and how to clear OmniBase holds that prevent people from renewing their driver’s license when they have not paid fines.
“Particularly during the current economic recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, so many people find themselves unable to pay fines and fees arising from traffic violations and other low-level misdemeanors,” said Mary Mergler, with Texas Appleseed. “These fines and fees drive people into a cycle of debt and incarceration when people cannot pay them, and we hope this toolkit will help as many people as possible break that cycle.”
Unlike Class A or B misdemeanors or felony cases where defense counsel must be appointed by the court if someone cannot afford to hire an attorney, in fine-only misdemeanor cases, such as traffic tickets and other Class C misdemeanor offenses, no legal counsel is appointed to represent people.
“Individuals across Texas routinely reach out to TFDP for help resolving their tickets that they cannot afford to pay,” said Karly Jo Dixon, with Texas Fair Defense Project. “Many have already contacted the court and attempted to advocate for themselves, but did not know what options were available or felt like the only option was to agree to a payment plan, even when they know they cannot afford to do so. Our hope is that this toolkit may help demystify the court process and provide the resources and knowledge for people to effectively self-advocate.”
The site also features a list of legal organizations that may be able to provide legal help, forms people may need, and a glossary to explain terms that can be confusing to people representing themselves. Sample documents include templates requesting community service, payment plans and fine reductions.
On July 15, 2020, Texas Fair Defense Project and Texas Appleseed will host a webinar to provide advice to people who are struggling with tickets and driver’s license suspensions. The webinar will also include a discussion of necessary policy changes at the state and local level to provide relief to Texans with unresolved court debt.
Texas Fair Defense Project and Texas Appleseed work to ensure justice for all people in Texas courts, regardless of someone’s race or income.
About Texas Fair Defense Project
Texas Fair Defense Project fights to end the criminalization of poverty in Texas. For more information, visit www.fairdefense.org.
About Texas Appleseed
Texas Appleseed is a public interest justice center. Through data-driven research, our nonprofit works to change unjust laws and policies that prevent Texans from realizing their full potential. For more information, visit www.TexasAppleseed.org.