Why you should always keep your court dates: a series in three parts
The consequences of failing to appear on Class C misdemeanors
It is common in my work to come across clients who have outstanding warrants on Class C misdemeanors. Class C misdemeanors are the lowest level of misdemeanors in Texas; they are punishable by fine only and not jail. They include minor criminal offenses like Public Intoxication and Possession of Drug Paraphrenalia and all traffic offenses like speeding and failure to yeild right of way.
When you receive a citation or “ticket” for a Class C misdemeanor, you will get a court date on that citation for when you should either appear or contact the court and ask for options on how to resolve the case. If you wish to speak with a prosecutor about the case, which is a better option often times than simply pleading no contest and paying the fine, as I have explained elsewhere, you will get another court date on which to appear.
If you do not appear or make arrangements with the court to reolve the matter, there will be consequences that can adversely affect your life.
First, you will be charged with a second Class C misdmeanor of “Failure to Appear”. This is a negative consequence as it will be yet another citation you will have to resolve with the court. It may cost you more money as you may have to pay an additional fine.
Second, warrants will be issued for your arrest. If you ever have an encounter with law enforcement in that jurisdiction, you may be arrested on these warrants even though they are Class C misdemeanors. You may spend some time in jail on these charges even though they are not punishable by jail time. You may eventually be released with a court date or you may be ordered to “sit out” the fines if you plead guilty at magistration.
Now, these are the most obvious of the consequences. There are more that are far more obscure and less publicized and may surprise you.
If these tickets – both the original citation and the failure to appear – are entered in the OMNI database, you will be refused the ability to renew your driver’s license and register your vehicle, which could lead to more criminal citations like DWLI and expired registration. You will have to resolve these citations before you are allowed to renew your driver’s license and registation.
Resolving these citations may be more difficult if they get “old”. Fees, such as collection fees, may drive up what you owe. You will also be charged warrant and OMNI fees -- $50 warrant fee and $30 OMNI fee per ticket for a total of $80 – that must be paid when the tickets are resolved. You will often not be allowed to negotiate the fines and fees if the tickets are “old” and are in the OMNI database and/or are in collections. You will not be allowed a deferral. You will have to pay the amounts in full. The only way around this is to hire an attorney to post bonds and get these cases back on the docket, which will cost you money.
It may seem like it is the best solution to just ignore your citations. You may feel like you don’t have the money to take care of them or the time. However, avoidance of the citations will lead to the situation getting much worse. If you cannot afford to pay a citation, you can perhaps ask for community service in leiu of payment. Don’t just put your head in the sand and expect the ctiations to go away – they won’t.
If you are struggling with outstanding warrants on Class C violations, OMNI holds, and the like, I am here to help. I can usually save clients money and time, and get them out of the morass of unpaid tickets. But what is even better is to take care of ctiations in a timely manner so you don’t need someone like me to fix it after it’s become an unsolvable problem.