Petition To End Fine-Only Arrests in Texas

July 28, 2017 by

Most Texas motorists wouldn’t expect that driving with a broken taillight or forgetting to use their blinker when changing lanes would land them in jail, but technically it could.

Prohibiting arrests for these “fine-only” offenses was a popular item during the regular legislative session. Independent bills, as well as provisions within broader bills, were filed to prohibit arrests, but even with wide bipartisan support the effort failed.

That doesn’t mean Texans have to wait two years to push for this reform.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has the rule-making authority to limit arrests for minor infractions. By changing internal policy, DPS can limit the number of arrests their troopers make for these offenses.

A petition effort to do just that is being spearheaded by Just Liberty and has received support from Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime, Texans for Accountable Government, ACLU of Texas, and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, to name a few.

As Just Liberty put it, “The booking procedure for a Class C misdemeanor includes processing paperwork, taking mugshots and fingerprints, collecting clothing and personal property, conducting a full body search, checking for warrants, and performing health evaluations and mental health assessments.”

The time an officer spends on the booking process for someone who committed a fine-only offense is not just a waste of tax dollars, but it becomes a public safety issue if that officer would otherwise be out on patrol.

A study by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition found that over a 16-week period, 11 percent, or 2,567, of Harris County arrests were for non-jailable offenses and that’s just one county for four months out of the year; imagine the impact this unjust power has on Texans across the state.

Restore Justice USA supports Just Liberty’s effort urging DPS Director Steven McCraw to develop new policy that would limit the number of arrests for fine-only offenses, and we urge others to do the same.

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About the Author

Charles operates the Houston office for Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.