If you are struggling with failure to appear entries that prevent you from renewing your license, you may find the following helpful:
The Texas OmniBase Program: What You Need to Know
Texas Transportation Code Chapter 706 authorizes the Department of Public Safety to create the Texas OmniBase.
If a receipient of a Class C ticket fails to appear in court on that ticket as ordered, or if a he/she enters a plea on a ticket, agrees to pay a certain amount, and fails to satisfy that judgment, the court may have the ability to enter that failure into the Texas OmniBase.
If a driver has an entry in the OmniBase, that driver will not be able to renew his driver’s license once it expires. If the driver is not yet licensed, he will not be able to get a regular driver’s license until the entry is cleared. He will be obligated to take action on that ticket in order to get it cleared from the OmniBase so that he can renew or test for a license.
If a driver has an entry in the OmniBase, his license will not be suspended. Instead, the driver will only be blocked from renewing or testing until the entries in the OmniBase are cleared. That means that he will not be charged a reinstatement fee by DPS in order to renew his license once the entries in the OmniBase are cleared.
II. Entries in the OmniBase
In order for a court to enter failures to appear and failures to satisfy judgments in the OmniBase, the “political subdivision” – ie, the county or the city in which the court has jurisdiction – must have a contract with DPS to do so. The political subdivision will have to pay a certain fee to DPS to have this contract. There is an incentive for political subdivisions to have this contract as it provides them some leverage on drivers to take care of open citations in their courts and thereby collect revenue generated by those citations.
If a driver receives a ticket in a jurisdiction that has a contract with DPS, that court can report a failure to appear or a failure to pay as agreed to DPS. Once that entry is made, the driver will not be able to renew his driver’s license through DPS until one of several things happens to that ticket. If the driver failed to appear and has never entered a plea, then the driver must either a) be acquitted on the ticket at trial, b) get the ticket dismissed by the prosecutor in the court, or c) enter a plea and pay the judgment on the ticket of fine and court costs. If the driver has entered a plea and failed to satisfy the judgment, then the driver must a) perfect the appeal of the judgment or b) satisfy the judgment.
In some jurisdictions, if a driver has an open ticket on which he has never entered a plea, the court may require the driver to post a bond – either cash or surety – to get that ticket back on the docket so that the driver can negotiate a plea deal on the case. An attorney may be able to help a driver post a surety bond. Some courts will withdraw the entry in the OmniBase once a bond is posted with payment of the OmniBase fee; some will not.
The statute also requires DPS to clear OmniBase entries if they are in error or if the record of the ticket has been destroyed by the courts.
III. Administrative Fee
The statute requires drivers who have an entry in the OmniBase to pay a $30 administrative fee to get the entry cleared from the OmniBase. This is in addition to the actions the driver must take to close out the ticket. The only time this does not have to be paid is when the driver is acquitted at trial of the underlying offense that is the basis of the ticket.
If the driver takes action to resolve the ticket entered into the OmniBase, that driver will still be denied renewal until the $30 administrative fee is paid.
The administrative fee is collected by the court that has jurisdiction over the ticket and is deposited in the political subdivision’s treasury. The political subdivision is allowed to deposit the fee in an interest bearing account and is entitled to keep that interest. After it is collected, $20 is sent to the Texas state comptroller and $10 is kept by the political subdivision. Of the $20 that is sent to the comptroller, $10 is given back to DPS to administer the OmniBase program.
IV. Pitfalls of Resolving OmniBase Entries
Drivers may be tempted to simply pay tickets in order to be able to renew their driver’s licenses. To simply pay a ticket without negotiating a result with the prosecutor that keeps the ticket off your driving record means that the driver has entered a plea of no contest and will receive a conviction for this offense. This could have negative consequences on that driver’s ability to continue driving legally.
One way a conviction may have negative ramifications is causing a suspension of the driver’s priviliges to drive. This could happen for many reasons. If the driver didn’t have a driver’s license or was under a suspension already when he received the citation, and if the citation is a moving violation, pleading no contest will cause what’s called a “departmental suspension” because a no contest plea requires the driver to admit to driving at the time he got the ticket. This admission to driving illegally triggers a departmental suspension by DPS. For example, if a driver is not driving legally, gets a ticket for running a stop sign, and enters a plea of no contest, he has admitted to the court and DPS by entering that plea that he was indeed driving during a period in which he was not legally eligible to drive. The Department will move to suspend the driver’s license. If this happens, the driver can request a hearing in his or her county of residence in front of the Justice Court or Municipal Court to challenge the suspension. The driver must request this hearing within 20 days of the notice of suspension. DPS will send that notice to the last known address of the driver.
Another way entering a plea of no contest to a moving violation in the OmniBase can be detrimental is that it will add two points to the driver’s license. If the moving violation causes a traffic accident, three points are assessed. If the driver gets six points on his license, he will be assessed a surcharge of $100 every year the point total is six plus $25 for every additional point.
Another way entering a plea of no contest to a moving violation can have negative consequences is by adding moving violations to the driver’s record. If a driver has four moving violations in twelve months, or seven violations in twenty four months, the Department will move to suspend his license. The driver is entitled to a hearing to challenge the suspension. He must request it in 20 days of receiving notice of the suspension.
Pleading no contest to certain citations will result in an automatic suspension in which the driver is not entitled to a hearing. Entering a plea of no contest to DWLI will result in an automatic suspension. If a driver pleads no contest to a citation for failure to maintain financial responsibility (not having insurance) and the driver already has more than one violation for this offense, the driver’s privileges will be suspended automatically and the driver will be required to provide proof to the Department of possession of an SR-22 (high liability) insurance policy for two years.
These kinds of negative consequences can be avoided with the help of a good lawyer who knows how to navigate Class C tickets and negotiate resolutions that do not result in convictions on the driver’s record.
It is important to check the OmniBase at www.texasfailureto appear.comprior to the expiration of your license with enough time to rectify any entries in the database before your license is expired and you cannot renew.
If you check the OmniBase and see entries there, consulting with a lawyer can be helpful. Attorneys can post surety bonds and get cases back on the docket so that beneficial resolutions can be negotiated for the driver that will not result in suspension of driver’s privileges.