Texas Legislators Vote To End Jail Time For Being Too Poor To Pay Fines

June 4, 2017

Texas legislators have just voted in favor of allowing low-income residents to pay off fines in methods other than money.

Texas no jail time for poor people fines

Senate Bill 1913, by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow courts to ask defendants if they are too poor to pay for traffic tickets, fines for other low-level and fine-only offenses or court costs.

After making that determination, courts would be allowed to reduce or waive fines and costs and offer community service as an alternative.

"They're not getting off scot-free. We're getting something for something," the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, told members Monday. "We are filling our jails up with people who should not be there."

Legislation tackling this issue has a high-profile supporter in Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht.

Jailing a person who can't pay fines and court costs "keeps them from jobs, hurts their families, makes them dependent on society and costs the taxpayers money," he said during his State of the Judiciary speech in February.

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