Cities across Texas have teamed up to participate in the 2016 Great Texas Warrant Roundup, which begins Saturday.
More than 300 law enforcement departments will arrest people who have outstanding warrants such as delinquent traffic, Class-C misdemeanor citations or delinquent parking citations.
In Dallas County alone there are about 265,000 outstanding warrants, according to the county Sheriff’s Department, which equals about $76 million in unpaid fines and fees. In 2015, the Warrant Roundup resulted in 144,000 outstanding warrants being cleared in Texas, a Dallas County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson said.
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Fort Worth has a web page dedicated to the roundup, including a link to find out if you have a warrant in your name, which is a necessary reminder for many people.
"A lot of my clients will say, 'I don’t even remember this. I have no idea what this is,'" said Bryan Wilson, the Fort Worth attorney dubbed the "Texas Law Hawk." "That can happen, but the best thing to do is just check if you are unsure."
Wilson said he would advise anyone who is swept up in the roundup to know their rights.
"If you go down and follow what the billboards say, 'Pay your fine or go to jail,' [and assume] those are the only two options, a lot of times you can hire an attorney and you can get the fine lowered. And you can get it cleared off your record," he said. "Especially if it’s something like a moving violation, public intoxication or something you don’t want on your record."
The American Civil Liberties Union echoed those same concerns in a recent statement.
"It is not legal for a judge to jail an individual simply because he or she cannot pay fines or fees," the ACLU statement read. "The law requires a judge to ask whether a person has the ability to pay their debt before committing that person to jail. If a person cannot pay, he or she cannot be required to “lay out” the fines or fees in jail (meaning, pay down the fines through a jail stay)"
In Dallas and Tarrant counties, officials have released a list of the Top 50 offenders, many of whom will be targeted in the roundup.
In Dallas County, many of the violators listed, including each of the Top 10, are wanted for failing to pay tolls – the top offender has $116,696.18 in unpaid tolls and penalties.
In Fort Worth, the city’s Top 50 list shows the names of the offenders and the number of warrants in their name.
The No. 1 offender on the list has 102 outstanding warrants.