Fort Worth’s municipal court held a “warrant forgiveness” month in February and it worked so well, the program will be extended – for good.
Judges will focus on coming up with payment plans as low as $20 per month so people can avoid an unplanned trip to jail and drop arrest warrants when they can.
Fort Worth currently has 300,000 traffic warrants.
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In February, the city collected $1.6 million in fines and cleared nearly 26,000 warrants. That’s three times as much money and 10 times as many warrants as last year’s “warrant roundup.”
"People hear 'roundup,' they're scared,” said city marshal Kevin Woods. “So we went to the warrant forgiveness program. So I think that's a lot better because people are more apt to forgive. People hear that word, they think 'OK, I'll try it.'"
If people voluntarily show up to court, they’ll only be jailed in the most extreme cases, officials said.
If someone is arrested by police on the street, all deals are off.
"You still are accountable for all the citations that you do owe. Let's try to find a solution," said Judge JoAnn Reyes. "We try to come to an agreement. How much can you really afford?"
Municipal Court Director Theresa Ewing pushed the new plan.
"It's really about educating the community about coming in early, talking to us, so you don't have to have that fear of being pulled over,” she said.
Clinton Davis showed up on Wednesday to pay off his fine. He had two tickets that had grown to $747 and $800 with additional fees.
“They combined them,” he said after meeting with a judge. “It’s $30 a month. I’m very happy with that. I can do that.”
He walked out of court with the warrant for his arrest dismissed.
“I'm just glad they let me come down here and get on a payment plan and go home and get on with my life,” he said.