FARMERS BRANCH (CBSDFW.COM) – Going to court over a traffic ticket can seem like a punishment in itself.
Farmers Branch, though, is trying a new approach, allowing drivers to argue their cases without ever having to step foot in a courtroom.
“This is opening up a lot of doors for those people that simply can’t get off work or don’t have childcare,” said court administrator Kevin Barrett.
Barrett spent years looking for a way to modernize municipal court.
Now just weeks after the city quietly launched a new online case review system, dozens of cases were already handled entirely online.
“And we’re about to ramp that up,” said Barrett.
The system allows users can enter their plea, upload evidence, and communicate directly with a prosecutor or judge, who can write back offering a deal or a sentence.
“Do it on a phone, tablet, anything that has web access,” said Barrett.
Cases that used to take 2 to 3 weeks to resolve can now take 2 to 3 days.
If you don’t like the offer you get online, you can still try your chances in open court.
“You don’t have to accept anything. You can always reject it at the end,” said Barrett.
In almost half the cases scheduled before a judge in Farmer’s Branch, though, defendants fail to show. Making the justice system a little more accommodating, Barrett says, may finally help clear the backlog.
“We have tons and tons of outstanding cases, and we just want people to resolve their cases,” said Barrett.
Click here to check if you have any outstanding cases in Farmer’s Branch.
For answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the case review system, click here.