Lawmakers push to improve pay or lay lawsuits - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers push to improve pay or lay lawsuits

Source: KFDA Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA Source: KFDA

Texas Lawmakers have passed a bill intended to keep people from being given prison sentences because of their financial status.

Senate Bill 1913, would give judges in municipal courts more flexibility when assigning a punishment for people who commit offenses with financial penalties.

These cases are minor and involve things such as failing to pay parking tickets or driving without insurance.

If the governor signs the bill into law, judges would be able to reduce fines, allow offenders to pay through community service or determine another method that doesn't involve jail time.

"No one wants to go to jail and it's illegal to jail someone just because they can't pay," said Ryan Brown, a partner with Blackburn and Brown.

People who oppose this legislation said it devalues minor offenses to the indigent population. This is because if there is a reduced punishment for accumulating debt, than there is little incentive to pay it off.

However, putting indigent people in jail only costs governments and taxpayers money, which is a counterproductive way to collect minor offense fees.

"It's got to be about public safety and justice, and I don't think either of those are served by racking up a bunch of no ticket, no insurance crimes," said Brown. "There needs to be a system to get people insured, not to give them more fines so they are less able to afford insurance, that doesn't make us any safer."

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