Reporting Jason Allen
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A North Texas woman was handcuffed, stripped down and booked into jail – all because of an overdue traffic ticket.
It was just a ticket. Sarah Boaz was cited in August after an officer said she ran a stop sign.
Boaz lost the ticket, but said she knows it was wrong not to have paid it right away. Despite those missteps, she also says she never expected a late fee or penalty to land her in jail.
It happens in every city, every day, at just about every intersection. Drivers roll past stop signs, and through stoplights. But getting caught, and getting a ticket, is nothing compared to what Boaz got.
“I guess it was just frustrating to me, that a bill that I pay a month late, I end up in jail for,” she said.
Boaz’ expected trip to work Wednesday morning never happened. Because of her unpaid ticket, the Richland Hills City Marshal was waiting at her house with a warrant for her arrest. “I’m like, nobody puts out a bench warrant after 60 days. Why would you do that? You wouldn’t do that.”
Even when Boaz arrived at the jail, in handcuffs, she still didn’t think it was real. Then a female officer started giving her instructions. She remembered the officer saying, “’I’m going to need you to undress. I’m going to need you to stand against the wall. Please don’t step in front of this white box, or I’ll take that’… aggressive toward me. Obviously I am going to jail.”
CBS 11 News learned being stripped down is standard procedure for anyone brought to the jail in North Richland Hills. In an email to CBS 11 News Friday morning, the North Richland Hills Police Department said though Boaz was forced to undress, the search is not considered a strip search. In that email they said, “She was given a dress out. Before they go into the cell they are taken by a detention officer of the same sex to a private room with no cameras. They have to remove all clothing and they are given a jumpsuit. The officer searches their clothes, at no time does the officer touch them.”
Richland Hills is small enough that it only has one marshal. Warrants for unpaid tickets don’t sit around for months, like they might in larger cities.
Attorney Jason Smith told CBS 11 News though, there’s nothing requiring the city to put people in jail. “The constitution doesn’t keep the government or government officials from using common sense. Unfortunately, some police officers, some governments get overly aggressive because they want that ticket revenue.”
Municipal court officials said two reminders were sent to Boaz, which she says she never got.
A footnote – on Thursday, Boaz’ husband was issued a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign.
UPDATE (October 25, 2013 1:40 PM): Officials in North Richland Hills indicated Friday that the jail does sometimes allow people to pay fines for traffic tickets when they arrive at the jail, and avoid spending time in a holding cell. Those arrested are still booked in, and photographed, but are not made to change into a jail uniform and sit with others under arrest. The option is only extended to those who have the ability to pay the full amount as soon a law enforcement officers brings them to the jail. Earlier, officials indicated everyone coming to the jail was treated and booked in the same way for officer safety and because more than one municipality uses the facility.
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