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.