July 6, 2022
Courts constantly deal with individuals who are summoned to court but fail to appear (FTA). The District of Columbia and all states except for Mississippi statutorily authorize additional criminal charges specific to nonappearance. Often a court will issue a warrant for arrest that authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual. This has serious implications in people’s lives, and, in some cases, they may not be aware of the warrant. If they do know of the warrant, they usually are living in fear that a police officer will arrest them any moment, yet they do not have the money to pay for the tickets underlying the initial cause.
Some people and courts have started addressing this issue with directives preventing bench warrants for low bail amounts or implementing warrant forgiveness programs for individuals facing arrests or penalties for some misdemeanors and traffic tickets, among others.
The Municipal Court of Stonecrest in Georgia announced a warrant amnesty program in May 2022 that provides reduced fines and fees, and court officials can waive or reduce fees for non-traffic citations. The court sessions will be virtual and people willing to participate need to register.
The Oklahoma City Municipal Court is hosting a “penalty reduction program.” The program is available for people that have pending warrants for tickets owed to the city and for those who had committed Class A offenses on or before the end of June 2020. This program intends to reduce fines.
Another court that had implemented this type of program is Opelika’s Municipal Court in Alabama. The Court Forgiveness Program was allowing people with specific court charges to clear them without fear of arrest. This program was available until the end of March 2022. The program allowed individuals to pay without paying fines or court fees. “Court Forgiveness is offered to all individuals who have received traffic or parking tickets, failed to appear or pay fines, and for whom warrants have been issued or are pending on these charges.”
Texas recently held an event for people with outstanding citations with the Fort Worth Municipal Court. They were eligible for a reduction in their fine based on their ability to pay and were offered alternatives such as community service.
Does your court have a warrant forgiveness program? Let us know and share with us at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.