Friday, July 20, 2007

More than 10% of Texans currently wanted by police

Read this outstanding short essay attributed to Texas state Sen. Elliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) on overcriminalization via traffic offenses and how that can lead to more serious encounters with the law. Says Shapleigh, "A couple of weeks ago, the local paper printed names of El Pasoans with outstanding arrest warrants. 78,000 El Pasoans made the paper! What's going on here?"

What indeed? That's more than 10% of El Paso County's entire population!

"When we compared Austin, same story," said Shapleigh, "11% of Austin has outstanding arrest warrants. How did that happen?"

OMG - 11% of Austin has outstanding warrants! That's not just overcriminalized, that's the kind of bizarro figures one expects to hear in true totalitarian states. (The column includes an excellent chart showing which offenses have fees so high that many drivers simply can't pay.) Shapleigh gives the insider story of how that happened in 2003:
In 2003, on the House floor, Rep. Diane Delisi told Texans that the “Driver Responsibility” bill was needed "to improve driver’s behavior." Everyone in Austin knew that the real story was money. After 9/11, Texans quit buying. Sales tax revenues dropped so much that Texas now had a $10 billion budget deficit. Rather than raise taxes, Republicans cut taxes on the wealthiest Texans, cut programs like CHIP, then shifted fees, tuition and tickets to low and middle income Texans.

During debate, a study of the bill based on New Jersey’s Act showed exactly who would pay the freight—low-income citizens. To make the bill more popular, ticket revenue was tied to trauma care.

At the time, Senator John Whitmire and others said, "Watch out—here comes the ‘chain gang.'” For the first time, fees, tickets and tuition paid for sizable chunk of the Texas budget. Under the bill, fees escalate dramatically. Theoretically, after three tickets, a driver can owe $3,000 and more, depending on the offense.

And if you can’t pay, you go to jail.

And that is exactly what happened. Nearly one in ten Texans can’t pay: students, single mothers, working families, essentially low and even middle income Texans whose income can’t keep up with gas, insurance, taxes and tickets too.
Sen. Shapleigh is asking Sen. John Carona who chairs the Texas Senate Transportation Committee to help fix the problem in 2009. Concluded Shapleigh: "Today, our own tax system uses the threat of prison to collect trauma care money. Working on the chain gang makes it awfully hard to pay for a ticket."

Good job, Sen. Shapleigh, that was one of the best communiques from a politician on an important, underpublicized topic that I've seen in many moons.

IMO every Texas media outlet should localize this story. It's a great hook: What percentage of your town's population are wanted outlaws? Just be sure to explain the cause is that Texas criminalizes too many things too punitively, not that all these folks are bad people.


Anonymous said...

Other questiona related to this topic are:

How accurate are the lists that are being published?

How much does it cost when someone is arrested for an outstanding warrant only to discover that the record keeping is shoddy and the ticket was paid?

How much does it cost to put people who cannot pay in jail/prison?

Do we really want to pay for government with threats of incarceration of the poor?

Do we really want fees and fines that are so exhorbetant, that the only result is a culture where 10% of the people ignore the law?

Anonymous said...

People who can not pay do not go to jail.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

anon @ 4:03, I'm afraid you're incorrect, see this article.

Anonymous said...

So, on those round-up outstanding warrants days, how many constables, police, etc. does it take and does that cost get counterbalanced by the fines due?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It makes up for THEIR time, but the big costs are pawned off on the jails, which are a county agency whereas the cities that get traffic ticket revenues and operate the PDs are different govt entitites. Ah, don't you love separation of powers?!

Anonymous said...


That article is ncie and all, but it speaks of warrant roundups. As a matter of law, those unable to pay fines/costs and the like will not spend time in jail to pay them off. The locals don't want it and the federal judges won't allow it.

They may arrest them, but after a very brief time they have to let them out.

Anonymous said...

BTW, on city citations, the cities must pay a per diem for the city prisoners to the the county. No one makes any money for prisoners held.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:48 - How long is "brief"? How do they determine that someone cannot afford to pay?

What happens to the fine after someone is arrested, jailed, released and declared unable to pay?

This whole thing is getting more and more foolish.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"on city citations, the cities must pay a per diem for the city prisoners to the the county."

Actually these arrangements are county by county. That's true in some counties but not others.

Plus, even in counties where they pay the per diem, when the jails are full arresting people for traffic tickets is still a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

The Peace Officers who enable the collection of high traffic fines should not be classified as such; these officers should be revenue collectors.

I remember the days when a peace officer issued a traffic citation only to obtain compliance with traffic laws. The fines were not for a lot of money. Yes, I was one of those officers and for every ticket I issued I gave 15-20 verbal warnings where no ticket originated.

Now 98% of traffic tickets are only revenue generating tools for governments.

Have you ever been driving down a four lane highway at 70 miles an hour and a little green sign appears announcing a name? The landscape doesn't change but the speed limit drops to 55 MPH. Pure Speed traps/Revenue producing areas.

Police spokesmen will tell you their officers do not have a ticket quota which is true in most cases. But, if an officer doesn't issue a certain amount of tickets in a certain period of time he had better have a good explanation.

I have often wondered how many criminals would be caught by peace officers if they were on patrol rather than being dedicated to traffic enforcement(Revenue Generators).

Retired 2004

Unknown said...

How does the public keep track of all these "public enemies"? Isn't that the traditional meaning of "pending warrant for arrest"? This has to put a strain on legitimate police who look for legitimate criminals. Of course it does open it up for fishing expeditions and padding stats to impress the public. And since most of these people are low income it reduces the risk that comes with pursuit of real criminals that do real harm. And you can camp out in low income areas to boot.

Anonymous said...

"...the kind of bizarro figures one expects to hear in true totalitarian states."

I think we already are.

One definition of totalitarianism is: "The political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority."

And it's a really big authority and it needs a whole lot of the citizen's money to operate.

The regular citizen and their freedom from such totalitarianism does not matter at all to the government machine.

The citizens are only fodder for the gigantic, all encompassing,hungry, greedy machine that our government has become.

Those citizens who have allowed themselves to become a part of the machine may not be in as much eminent danger as the rest of the citizenry... but the machine can and does turn on them, too.

Anonymous said...

Like Abraham Lincoln said, "They're different." A minority of people in Texas are sincere, hardworking, loving, honest, etc. Many are better people than I'll ever be. However the majority of white people, particularly in East Texas, are the scum of the Western World.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hey, wait a minute - I'm a white guy from East Texas!

How'd we get there?!

Anonymous said...

Another tentacle of of this monster is the Drug War. Specifically, the Prohibition of cannabis. Think about how many people make a living on the suffering of others: Cops, prosecutors, "counselors", drug testing, prison industries, ancillary industries (those providing equipment, food to prisons, the cups you pee in, etc.)

Bottom line: Until more people pay attention to their civil rights and the behavior of politicians, corporations, and the media, we're doomed to fail as a democracy.

Keep voting Republican and you can count on it.

Anonymous said...

Well, all I can say is : you get what you vote for. Not only the U.S. President, but also your congressman/woman, governor, and state representatives are all elected. Did you vote in the last election? See what happens when good men/women don't vote >> we get tyrants.

Anonymous said...

I'm in this situation and know others that are too.

I have to pay a surcharge for tickets that I have already paid for.

I'm barely getting by and if I don't pay the surcharge they will suspend my drivers license. My work requires me to drive. If I drive with a suspended license, they will arrest me. Then on top of not being able to pay for the fee's I already owe, I would have to find a way to pay the almost three hundred dollars it takes to get your car out of the impound lot. Not to mention a very unpleasant stay in an overcrowded holding tank in Harris County. Where they will hold you for at least 36 hours. Evidently the county gets paid by the state for every 12hrs they hold you. So they draw it out for 36 hours so they can squeeze out the most money from the state.
All of this can really wreak havoc. I'm self employed and my business is struggling right now. But at least my employer (me) is understanding. A lot of these people that get caught up in the system like this are going to loose their jobs when they get arrested and don't show up for work. It's like they are going out of their way to increase the homeless population.

Anonymous said...

Shoddy record keeping is not even half the story! More like lazy. I know someone on that published list who had one traffic ticket in her life. She elected to go to driver education classes to reduce the fine. That was six years ago. She called when her name appeared in the local newspaper and the clerk in El Paso told her she had no doubt that the whole list was messed up.
The clerk told her to pay the fine anyway and keep the receipt in her car because El Paso police would arrest her. She then told her to try to find the evidence supporting her claim that she had already paid and attended driving classes. Nobody had ever made the entry in all these years. It's all disgusting and it has nothing to do with Democrat/Republican at all. We have to stop blaming political parties for everything and insist that individuals do the jobs they were hired to do!!!

Anonymous said...

Conservative = Big Govt ON YOUR BACK

Prison Writings, Interviews, and Art said...

Maybe community service would be a better alternative to prison for those who owe fines. After all, Texas prisons a re already way to crowded.

Anonymous said...

8:41 PM you are so right. Those white folks are just no good. Neither are the blacks, hispanics, asians, and every other race for that matter. Let's just blame all of our own problems on other races, that way we don't have to accept any responsibility for our actions.

Don said...

There is more to this story. I think this surcharge crap is the reason why we are seeing so many DWLI or DWLS charges. In the tiny town of Levelland where I live, there are 8 or 10 of these things every week. I guess they are arresting them all, even though when the new law takes effect, they don't have to arrest them. Probably still will. This was an example of Texas lawmaking at its worst, and that is BAD.

Anonymous said...

I bet the 10 perecent are illegal aliens.

Anonymous said...

I guarantee the 10% aren't illegals. They are all the people who don't follow the law and change their address on their driver license. When the Driver Responsibility Program notices are sent, they don't receive them. And, because the law isn't well publicized, they don't realize they are putting their license status in jeopardy. Not only do these people have outstanding warrants and surcharges, they also have expired licenses. So, when they get caught breaking the law again-driving while license invalid, they are going to have another surcharge to deal with. It's a never ending cycle, most of it easily remedied - follow the law.

Anonymous said...

Two weeks ago, my daughter and I received tickets for parking our cars facing the wrong way on our quiet suburban street in El Paso. Used to be, the officer would come to your door and give a verbal warning. My daughter works for minimum wage so she can go to college and I am unemployed. The tickets are $55 each, which is outrageous. We don´t have the money and we haven´t paid. The fines will double in a few days. I told her that if we are arrested we will just have to stay in jail until the fine is worked off.
Hiding out in Mexico

NZalud said...

TX Driver Responsibility Program Petition

hiikeeba said...

Don't worry. Won't be long till it's like this in Virginia. Here's a link.

NZalud said...

Tell EVERYONE that you know (and don't know for that matter)!!

Link to Texas Driver Responsibility Program Petition

~Many thanks!!!

Imagine this: You receive a ticket for an expired driver’s license; you go to court, pay your fine, and remember in the future to renew your license on time. You’re done, right? WRONG! Many months later in the mail you may or may not receive a letter explaining the TX Driver Responsibility Program and that you must also pay a fine to the state (in addition to the city in which the offense occurred) every year for three years. If you fail to do so for whatever reason, your license may become suspended, with or without your notification or knowledge. This means that if you are stopped for let’s say a license plate cover on your car, and the officer runs your license, you can be arrested and taken to jail for not paying the surcharge (regardless if you’ve renewed you license, have never received any notification letters or have no idea that you owed money), or even for paying late. Not paying the surcharge suspends your license, and driving with a suspended license is illegal. You can then be arrested regardless of a lack of notification on the government’s part.

Around the time of spring finals, my boyfriend was pulled over for a frivolous reason and then arrested for driving with a suspended license. Apparently, his license (and mine as I would later find out) had been suspended for almost a year, yet we had no idea, and no notification. After an exhausting and financially debilitating journey to end the nightmare, I began my research on this new, mind-boggling law that seemed too cruel to actually exist. I was surprised by the vast number of people who to this day had never heard of the law. I believe there has been an absolute lack in effort to notify citizens of the surcharge, including all of the minor and confusing details. Not to mention, we were never allowed to vote on the issue!

In addition to a fine or resolution within the affiliated jurisdiction, the surcharge must be paid every year for three years; the amount varying from hundreds to thousands of dollars and may be paid in increments of approx. $30 a month. If you miss a payment, or it is late, then your driver’s license will be suspended, with or without your notification. After doing some research, it appears that DPS may have failed to notify drivers that their license were/are suspended (some drivers reported not receiving any letter explaining the surcharge and in an article DPS admits to having problems and failing to notify drivers). A result of all of this is that many people are shocked as they’re arrested when pulled over for something as small as a headlight, or even going to renew their driver’s license.

In my particular situation, our fines were paid completely for the first year and we received no notification the second year. The deadline to pay had not expired and when I entered my information on the DPS website, it showed that I had paid my fine and owed nothing. However, when my future father in law, a 20year+ HPD sergeant, ran my license it said that it had been suspended for almost a year. Later I found out that DPS changed your identification number each year, so even if they fail to notify you, and as a good citizen you pro-actively go to the allocated website to pay a fine, the information you are given could be incorrect. Thus leaving you susceptible to being arrested and then paying hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to get out of jail for essentially driving; not because you didn’t pay for whatever violation occurred in the city you received, but because of an additional fine that the state has given you for the same exact violation in said city or jurisdiction. A fine that surprisingly, many drivers have no idea they owe. The financial and economic burden this is placing on hardworking citizens is outrageous.

After moving twice, I changed my address with the United States Postal Service, I was able to receive an updated voter registration card, vote, pay taxes, purchase a vehicle, transfer the title into my name, renew my driver’s license, renew my registration sticker, as well as retain and maintain insurance! The excuse from the surcharge program in not notifying me is that they didn’t have my address (which can also be found in the phone book). Anything they had sent me would have been forwarded to my new address or they would at least receive notification of my new address. Additionally, I found a notification regarding a separate issue from DPS and the city of Webster with my updated address on it. Is our government really this unorganized and incompetent that basic data such as an address is incapable of being shared from department to department? Our nation’s security could very well depend on our government’s ability to function as a unified entity.

My fines are paid off at this time; however my feelings toward the situation have inspired me to educate others of the surcharge program. The additional fees created by the Driver Responsibility Program are unprecedented financial burdens placed on citizens whom can least afford it. One of the most disturbing factors surrounds the distribution of notification letters (a lack of) and the subsequent costly arrest of unknowing, hard working citizens. The surcharge program expires in September of this year (2007), at least it is supposed to. The program was never announced on a public level through the news or mail. Unless you go regularly to the states website, you like so many people, may have never heard of it.

Several other states including Michigan, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey have or are attempting to establish similar surcharge programs. This is not without controversy, as over 150,000 residents have signed petition blocking the legislation. The constitutionality of the law is highly suspect, as it violates the constitution in several areas.

Additionally, my research has revealed that the DRP will not expire as stated previously. The income generating bill is trekking forward albeit a few strategic amendments altering a few of the controversial sections. The amended legislation enabling the DRP takes effect September 1st 2007. What does this mean for (low-income) individuals who currently cannot afford to pay the fees and fines required to reinstate their license? Essentially, the state in realizing the error of their ways, sought to amend their error. In the mean time, where does that leave Texas drivers who were, if not forced, then manipulated into paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars the first time around? Although some may argue that driving is a privilege, many areas, especially in the state of Texas, lack a reasonable mass transit system that connects suburbs to the metropolitan area. One article states that the entire Texas Mobility Fund was created to compensate for the post 9-11 buying habits of Texans. Another detailed study examines how license suspensions unfairly impact the poor and middle class citizens, while the wealthy are vaguely impacted. As for the economic aspect, suspending people’s license, especially for not paying fines that they cannot afford, prevents them from driving to work and making money- money that they would likely spend and contribute to the state’s economy. Filling our jails/prisons with non-violent, misdemeanor offenders will not solve the extreme overcrowding issues our criminal system is currently facing. In the past, government mishaps have led to restitution to those affected by the poor judgment of law makers.

What options to Texans who want to protest the Driver Responsibility Program have? (Besides writing our representatives, as many people are getting no response) File a Class Action law suit? Organize a Protest? Construct a Petition? Find a member to sponsor a bill blocking the legislation?

Bills set to go into effect on September 1, 2007:

SB 1723- Relating to the collection of surcharges assessed under the Driver Responsibility Program.
-80R, Author: Ogden/ Sponsor: Krusee

HB 3545- Relating to the surcharge under the DRP for a conviction of driving while license invalid or without financial responsibility.

HB 1538- Relating to operating a motor vehicle without establishing financial responsibility: providing a penalty.

HB 3669- Relating to providing notice of surcharges under the DRP to a defendant in court prior to accepting a plea.

HB 3888- Seeks to alleviate some of the docket pressure on these statutory county courts and district courts by reducing the penalty for a first time offense of driving with an invalid license to a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by fine only, not to exceed $500; instead of current penalty which includes both a fine and confinement in county jail.

HB 3640- Relates to the collection of surcharges assessed under the DRP.

The Constitution of 1876 began with a lengthy bill of rights. It declared that Texas was a free and independent state, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, that all free men have equal rights, and that the writ of habeas corpus could not be suspended or unduly delayed. The article also forbade religious tests for office, unreasonable searches, and imprisonment for debt, and it guaranteed liberty of speech and press, the right of the accused to obtain bail and to be tried by a jury, and the right of citizens to keep and bear arms.

The Texas Constitution
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishment inflicted. All courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him, in his lands, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law.

The Texas Constitution
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS
No person, for the same offense, shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or liberty, nor shall a person be again put upon trial for the same offense, after a verdict of not guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction.

The Texas Constitution
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS
Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. This amendment is self-operative. (Added Nov. 7, 1972.)

The Texas Constitution
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS
No person shall ever be imprisoned for debt.

The Texas Constitution
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS
No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, retroactive law, or any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be made.

The Texas Constitution
Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS
All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.

NZalud said...

To whom it may concern:
My name is Tamara Shippy. I am a 22 year old Pre-Law student working on a degree in Political Science. After an unfair experience with the Tx Driver Responsibility Program, I have dedicated many months of my time to prepare a report of sorts on the DRP.

What I have discovered is that the entire fate of Texas is connected to the role that the Surcharge Program. This is because the money from the unconstitutional program is earmarked for the Tran-Texas Corridor, which is a strategic segment of what is to become a super corridor that spans the entire North American Continent.

I am hoping to educate the public of this extremely unconstitutional law. The state is suspending people's license over not paying an excessive surcharge fee that is in addition to what you agree to in court. What's more, is the money is going to pay for the Corridor projects, without consent or knowledge or the People or Congress! I believe that spreading the word would enable individuals to better deal with the negative effects that the TX DRP has had on their lives, as well as have a say in their own future.

Please help me in getting the word out! Thank you very much for your time and effort!!

TX DRP Surcharge Petition


Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm sorry, tamara, I've gotten behind and haven't posted your petition yet because it wasn't time sensitive.

I'll put the petition up on Monday which is a much higher traffic day than over the weekend. Thanks for reminding me!

Anonymous said...

Many folks on here have posted that by charging fines for traffic offenses, we actually "force" poor folks to be criminals by not paying. From first hand experience, I can tell you this is utterly false. Many of these "poor" people who do not pay fines are illegal immigrants and the names they give police are false from the get go. Other folks have very nice homes, cars, etc but just dont pay. And what about the fact that in order to get a ticket in the first place, you have to break the law. Law enforcement is not forcing anyone into criminal behavior. It is about personal choice. How easy it is to blame government and cops for people breaking the law... A novel concept...

Andrew Morin III said...

Thank You Tamara for stating THE TRUTH!! I didn't know that the proceeds from this ridiculous fee went to fund the TRANS TEXAS CORRIDOR. Rick Perry and his Republican cronies are behind this stupid project that is considered a major LAND GRAB!! No wonder they are trying to lower the fees as 70% goes unpaid.....they are trying to figure out HOW TO PAY FOR IT!! And for whoever said that illegal immigrants are behind this mess, you probobly are white and from East Texas!!....andy morin

eddiebingo said...

@ 8:39
Yo - I'm White and from Central Texas, and I have no idea what you're talking about. First of all, we are talking about the surcharge program, which means that illegal immigrants don't get the memo. Second of all, I can tell you firsthand that people who own nice houses and cars don't get pulled over!

This whole "illegal immigrants" are putting this problem onto the regular guy has got to stop now. These are extra fines placed upon us that we cannot pay for. They are outrageous and uncalled for. Please, stfu unless you know what you are talking about. The numbers speak for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I had gotten some tickets from working in a bar that these two cops use to harrass the customers leaving anyway I was a day late on my insurance payment and my license had just expired. I owed 875.00.I didn't feel justified paying that ticket so I spent 24 hours in jail.Then they kicked me out and did the Spurs program where for 3 days we cleaned the jail areaa from 7 am till 1 30 for 3 days and knocked out 875.00.

Anonymous said...

I've got a friend who got a 3rd degree drug conviction and gets their license suspended for 6 months.They were arrested at home. What does that have to do with your drivers license? Just more money for the state I guess.So does anybody know if they have to go through the whole SR-22 thing? Its like getting multiple sentencing which I think is unfair.I could see if they had a DWI.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add another reason I wasn't going to pay the fine cause i'll be damned if I was going to pay for the tickets and turn around and pay surcharges. You shouldn't be charged twice. Jail isn't a nice place but it was worth it to me not having to pay the 875.00. So is DPS going to charge me a surcharge? I haven't heard anything yet.