DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - If you are avoiding paying a ticket in Dallas, then you are part of what the city sees as a multimillion dollar problem. Of the $43 million worth of fines and ticket charges handed out last year, only $13 million was collected.
A recent warrant roundup cost the city $70,000 to execute and only brought in $2,000. But the outstanding tickets and subsequent warrants had a much higher value.
“The value for those tickets, the value that we are talking about is just over $500,000,” Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said.
City leaders said people are sitting in jail a couple of days or doing community service rather than paying fines — which is their constitutional right.
“I believe in independent judiciary and I believe in due process and the right of having defense attorneys,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “Those things are fundamental to the United States and we’ve got to make sure we do that. I think we all agree with those things.”
With outstanding citations for things like traffic tickets, illegal dumping, public intoxication and disorderly conduct, the courts and code compliance office is barely breaking even.
But city leaders say some people who perhaps could pay their fines aren’t, because they are granted deferred adjudication, getting their cases moved back, or avoiding the court altogether.
Currently, it is up to Municipal Judges to set up systems and frameworks on how fines are assessed and collected.
“We as the legislature cannot impose our will on the judiciary and tell them how to micromanage their court. What we can do is give them a framework,” suggested City Councilmember Angela Hunt.
The city council now wants to look at putting a new system in place and possibly appointing new municipal judges. In fact, they are interviewing candidates this week.
“We need to shake up our courts and the judges that we have sitting there right now to do it. We’re gonna do it,” said Hunt, who sits on the judicial committee.
The results of a two-year study, by the city, also determined that the current system makes it too easy for violators to skip out on going to court or just not pay fees or fines at all.
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