If any of the estimated 300,000 Class C warrants issued in Fort Worth have your name on it, the city’s Municipal Court has an olive branch to offer.
Class C misdemeanors are offenses such as traffic tickets. And traffic tickets often don’t get paid by offenders who don’t understand how to pay, or can’t afford to pay in full or maybe have other outstanding citations and are afraid of showing up at the courthouse and being arrested on the spot.
Don’t pay and eventually a warrant will be issued. However, warrants still don’t spur many to take care of their fines, which can lead to arrest if pulled over again. Come February, law enforcement agencies statewide get serious about collection and devote significant resources to “The Great Texas Warrant Roundup,” in which police come knocking on the door to arrest you at any time or any place, including your home, at work or school.
But now the City of Fort Worth Municipal Court has decided it wants to save you from an embarrassing arrest by bucking the aggressive roundup approach for a more neighborly discourse that it also believes will prove to be more productive.
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“We’re calling it Warrant Forgiveness Month,” Municipal Court Director Theresa Ewing said.
No, it’s not wiping the slate for those with Class C warrants, however this new “Court in the Community” initiative — a mobile courthouse coming to a part of town near you — does guarantee an arrest-free encounter while meeting with a municipal judge to arrange a payment plan (or even swapping fines for community service) to make that burdensome warrant a thing of the past.
The program began to take shape after last year’s Convoy of Hope event at Southwest High School. The Municipal Court was invited to set up a mobile unit, and the people came. Ewing said 87 people were able to rid themselves of warrants by working out a payment plan.
“No one loves to get pulled over, no one loves to get a ticket,” Fort Worth Municipal Court Chief Judge Danny Rodgers said. “They don’t know what to do with it, they’re afraid, they’re busy, they get past the date they’re supposed to show up and now they’re afraid they’re going to get arrested.
“Take a mom that’s living on limited income, she’s got two or three children, she’s got her kids in the car and she gets pulled over,” Rodgers continued. “Worst-case scenario is she gets arrested, CPS gets the kids and the car gets towed. It can be a scary thing, we understand that. People are better off if they come talk to us.”
The “Court in the Community” is a converted mobile police command center, essentially a motor home, that will make its debut 1-4 p.m. Feb. 6 at Birchman Baptist Church in the Las Vegas Trail area. With a judge wearing a smile and offering a handshake, the mobile courthouse will make three-hour stops in each of the city’s eight council districts throughout February.
The court has partnered with libraries, churches and community centers, the least-threatening locales they could find, to park the mobile courthouse.
“That’s really what started this conversation is how we can get more people to trust the courts and trust that they can come talk to us because there is nothing we can’t resolve if you come in and talk to us,” Ewing said.
Warrants, even for Class C misdemeanors, show up on background checks and can block a person from landing a job or an apartment. With 300,000 warrants in the city alone — it doesn’t mean 300,000 people have warrants as some have multiple warrants — how many does the city hope to rid with next month’s mobile court rollout?
They just don’t know.
“In the lower-income community as well as the homeless community, just the ability to talk with those folks and to help them find a pathway to get this off their backs, clear the warrant so they can get up off the ground and take good steps, I’m hopeful,” Rodgers said.
Warrant forgiveness month
Feb. 6: Birchman Baptist Church, 911 N. Normandale St., 1-4 p.m.
Feb. 7: COOL Library, 5060 Avenue G, 9 a.m.-noon
Feb. 8: East Regional Library, 6301 Bridge St., 1-4 p.m.
Feb. 13: Seminary South Library, 501 E. Bolt St., 1-4 p.m.
Feb. 14: BOLD Library, 1801 N. South Freeway, 1-4 p.m.
Feb. 15: Diamond Hill-Jarvis Library, 1300 N.E. 35th St., 1-4 p.m.
Feb. 20: Atwoods Ranch and Home, 6001 Lake Worth Blvd., 1-4 p.m.
Feb. 21: Southwest Community Center, 6300 Welch Ave., 9 a.m.-noon
Feb. 10, 17, 24: A.D. Marshall Public Safety and Courts Building, 1000 Throckmorton St., 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
For more information visit fortworthtexas.gov/municipalcourt or call 817-392-6700
Are you wanted?
Check The Great Texas Warrant Roundup to see if you have outstanding warrants.