Monday, February 29, 2016

ACLU Says Great Texas Warrant Roundup Is a Shakedown of the Working Poor

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 3:53 PM

FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS | KIPP BAKER
  • Flickr Creative Commons | Kipp Baker
The American Civil Liberties Union is criticizing the annual Great Texas Warrant Roundup. 

The initiative is for people who have outstanding warrants relating to fines. From February 20 through March 6 — the amnesty period — people can pay what's owed without fear of arrest for Class C misdemeanor fines, which includes stuff like traffic and city ordinance violations.

If you don't pay up, law enforcement officials will be looking for you, and will arrest you, between Monday March 7 and Sunday, March 13.

"2016 is a landmark year for the Great Texas Warrant Roundup. The Texas-wide campaign celebrates its 10th year of success," San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus said in a press release. "The City of San Antonio cleared and resolved over 22,000 warrants during last year's warrant roundup."

The ACLU takes a different view of the initiative, calling it a shakedown of Texas' working poor.

ACLU Texas Staff Attorney Trisha Trigilio explains

Depending on the jurisdiction, a ticket for failing to signal a lane change—the pretext for Sandra Bland’s tragic traffic stop—will cost you around $66. But the State tacks on $103 in court costs and a host of fees, some bordering on Kafkaesque. Texas will charge you a public defender fee, even though courts refuse to appoint a public defender for traffic ticket cases. If your fine is already too expensive to afford, Texas charges a fee to put you on a payment plan. You’ll even pay an “administrative fee” for the privilege of handing money over to the court. For people who are too poor to pay their tickets, that $66 fine can grow to over $500.

According to the ACLU, these are the people often targeted during the Great Texas Warrant Roundup. Trigilio continues: 

Jailing people for debt is both unjust and profoundly counterproductive. Not only does it deprive people of their liberty and separate them from their children and families, it also renders them incapable of paying off their fines, and costs the taxpayer (by conservative estimates) $51 per person per day of incarceration. It’s in everyone’s best interests to keep Texans with their families and out of jail.

Not sure if you have an outstanding warrant? Click here to find out

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