OMNI database

Reposting: Go to Court: 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.

Austin Municipal Court: The Difference Between "Commitments" and "Warrants"

Austin Municipal Court:  The Difference Between “Commitment” and “Warrant”

 

I get many, many calls about fixing tickets entered into the “Failure to Appear” database, formally called the OMNI database, because these tickets will inevitably jeopardize a person’s ability to drive legally in Texas.  Tickets entered into the database will not suspend your driving privileges, but it will keep you from renewing your license if you have one or prevent you from getting a regular license if you have not yet tested and been licensed. 

 

I will talk about Austin Municipal Court here, but the advice is generally applicable to all Class C tickets in the OMNI database. 

 

If you have tickets in OMNI from Austin Municipal Court, you should search for your ticket at www.austintexas.gov/department/municipal-court.  Look at what it says next to the ticket.  If it says “commitment”, it means you have already entered a plea on the ticket of “no contest”, been convicted, and have agreed to pay it. 

 

The problem with this is that in most cases, it is very difficult to re-negotiate an outcome on the case.  You are in most instances stuck with what you agreed upon and you are going to have to pay it before it gets taken out of OMNI.  If the conviction came with surcharges or a driver’s license suspension, you are probably stuck with it. 

 

A lawyer can do very little on these tickets except perhaps file a writ (that is extraordinary and you should not count on it being done or it being successful). Hiring a lawyer may really be a waste of resources.  What you should do is go down to the “walk in” or mitigation docket from 8 am to 11 am or 1pm to 3 pm at Austin Municipal Court and speak to the judge about a manageable payment plan. 

 

Other courts outside of City of Austin may not call these “commitments” but the outcome is the same – if you agreed to pay, you got convicted, and it’s a done deal.  To get them out of OMNI you have to pay.  Sometimes in small jurisdictions, where the procedures are not as tight, the judge may directly renegotiate with you but this is just a random occurrence that you should not count on. 

 

If your tickets say “warrant” next to them, there is more hope.  A “warrant” means that you never entered a plea and you can still avoid a conviction.  Do not go running down to the court and agree to pay.  Either hire an attorney to take over, or go down to court and ask to speak with the prosecutor.  You may not be allowed to do this without posting bond due to missing your first court date, but a judge may allow you to see a prosecutor.  It’s just going to depend on who is on the bench.  I have also seen judges offer deferred disposition at the walk -in docket.  However, in Austin, the ticket will need to be disposed of AND paid, if anything is owed, before it is taken out of OMNI.

 

So, to sum up, there are two ways things can end up in OMNI – either you agreed to pay and didn’t, which limits what you can do to get it out of OMNI, or you just never showed up and you have never entered a plea.  The second is much better and helps you avoid a multitude of collateral consequences.

Failure to Appears in OMNI Database

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

I. Overview

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.

V. Conclusion

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.