Do Not Simply Pay Your Delinquent Tickets
When a mosquito lands on your arm, you have a natural tendency to swat it. In fact, it's practically a reflex. When your license is expired, and you are desperate to renew it, there is a similar knee jerk reaction to resolve it quickly by simply paying the tickets. Resist the temptation to do so. Here is why you do not just simply pay your delinquent tickets. When you pay your tickets, the violations then become convictions. That's where new problems will begin. Certain convictions trigger license suspensions, surcharges and points on your driving record. Do not swat the mosquito on your license by paying the delinquent tickets. Doing so may do more harm than good, and may further hinder your ability to renew your license.
The Process to Properly Handle Delinquent Tickets in a Nutshell
When people ask me what to do in this situation, these are the steps I tell them to follow. It doesn't matter whether they have two violations in one court or two hundred violations scattered in several courts. The steps are the same for either situation.
1. Find out in a what court(s) the cases are pending.
2. Post bonds to get the cases back on the courts docket.
3. Hire an attorney to represent you to keep the violations from becoming convictions.
For each court where you have cases pending, you will need a bondsman and an attorney. The bondsman may be you, a bail bondsman, or sometimes, the attorney representing you in that court. This is not an enjoyable process, but it is the best road map I can give you to dig yourself out. Memorize the above three steps and read the paragraphs below, and you will be armed with the information you need to improve your situation.
How Do I Find The Court In Which My Cases Are Pending?
I find that people do not hold on to their tickets sometimes. Especially those whose tickets are ten or more years old. Some people think there is a database that lists all the courts in which they have pending tickets. There is no such database. One way to figure out where your tickets are is to call both, the Municipal and Justice of the Peace Courts near the location where you received the ticket. Another great place to start is the Texas Failure to Appear database. If you miss court, most courts will place you into this system (known also as the OMNI system) so that the DPS will not renew your driver's license. It may not show all courts where you have delinquent tickets, but it will show most of them. It is a very useful tool and here is the link: http://www.texasfailuretoappear.com/search.php.
If you place your cursor over the court in the left hand column of the screen, it will give you the court's telephone number and address.
What Is a Bond?
A bond is a security that you place with the court to lift the warrants and get you a new court date. There are generally three types of bonds. A cash bond is where you give cash to the court to hold in order to secure your appearance in court on the new court date. When your case is disposed of, you get the cash back, minus any court costs. A bail bond is where you go to a bail bondsman and pay the bondsman to post the bond with the court for you. You usually pay a non-refundable percentage of the bond amount to the bondsman and you do not get any of it back. Finally, there is an attorney surety bond that your attorney can post for you as long as they are representing you on the case or cases they are posting the bond for.
How Do I Post a Bond?
Contact the court if you want to post a cash bond. Contact a bondsman in the county in which the court is located to post a bail bond through a bondsman. Check with the attorney who will be representing you to see if they can post an attorney surety bond for you.
Finding An Attorney
You will want an attorney to represent you so that, hopefully, the cases can be handled in a way to avoid convictions which may otherwise trigger license suspensions, surcharges and points on your driving record. If your tickets are in another city or town far away, you may want to search for a local attorney in that jurisdiction. One advantage to retaining local counsel is their familiarity with that particular court. Additionally, it may be too expensive to hire an attorney to travel to where your tickets are pending.
Be Aware, The Following Terms And Phrases Are Not Synonymous
Although they are often erroneously used interchangeably by lawyers, clients, police officers, DPS and court personnel, the following terms should not be confused, as they are each entirely different from each other.
Driver's License Suspension-If a driver's license is suspended, then there will be a definite period of suspension. A start date and a date on which the suspension is over. A license may be suspended for any number of reasons including for certain convictions. A driver's license may have more than one suspension at the same time.
Invalid Driver's License-A license may become invalid for any number of reasons including the non-payment of surcharges, or being unable to renew your driver's license due to a failure to appear in court. Unlike a driver's license suspension, there is not definite start and stop date. The period of invalidation is contingent upon removal of the cause or causes for the license being invalid. Validation of the license may require the payment of surcharges or the payment of OMNI fees.
Denial of Renewal of Driver's License-If you miss court, the court may place you in the Failure to Appear database so that you cannot renew your driver's license. The inability to renew Your driver's license is not a suspension, but may be the cause for the license being invalid, due to the inability to renew it.
Surcharges-Fees owed to DPS for either too many points or for being convicted of certain violations, including convictions for Noe Driver's License, Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (Driving without insurance), and Driving While License Invalid. I think of surcharges as punishment for being punished. The non-payment of surcharges will result in the license becoming invalid.
OMNI Fees-When you are entered into the Failure to Appear (OMNI) system for missing court, you will incur OMNI fees. OMNI fees are e$30.00 for each violation entered into the system. You must pay each $30.00 fee in order to remove the violations from the OMNI system so that you can renew your driver's license. The fees are paid at the court. Usually, you cannot pay the OMNI fees until you post a bond.
Failure to Appear-A charge filed when a person when a person misses court. The charge is in addition to the underlying charge such as speeding.
Warrant-Court order to arrest a person for missing court or for some other reason.
Be aware that any number or combination of all the above may be present at the same time.
But These Cases Are So Old, I Can't Believe They are Holding These Over My Head
I have people call me today with things from the 90's. That was last century folks. Unfortunately, warrants do not die of old age. With technology comes the ability to track forever.
But I've Been Stopped Several Times, I've Renewed My License Twice Since Then, And It's Never Been A Problem Until Now
Here is my explanation as to why it's never been a problem until now. They may have just recently acted on it. When you miss court, one or more of the following may occur:
1. An additional charge of Failure to Appear is filed.
2. A warrant or warrants are issued for your arrest.
3. You are entered into the OMNI system so that you cannot renew your license.
Any one or more of these events may occur at the time you fail to appear in court, a day later, a week later, a month later, up to two years later to file a Failure to Appear, and several years later with regard to issuing warrants and entering you into the OMNI system. There is no limitation on issuing warrants and entering a case into the OMNI system.
When Can I Renew My Driver's License?
That depends on the cause or causes of your not being able to renew.
Driver's License Suspension-When the suspension period is over and you have paid a reinstatement fee to DPS.
Invalid Driver's License-When the cause of the license being invalid has been removed, such as the payment of OMNI Fees or the payment of surcharges.
Denial of Renewal of Driver's License-If the denial is due to missing court, then whenever you pay the OMNI fees.
Surcharges-Whenever the surcharges are paid in full or are current pursuant to a payment plan with DPS.
Warrant-If you do not have a suspension, invalid license, or are not in the OMNI system, a warrant in and of itself does not prevent you from renewal, but of course, you may be arrested when you go to the DPS.
If you are clear of each of the above items, you should be good to go. If not, then you need to contact DPS to see what's holding you up.
Charles French was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1991. The majority of his practice includes the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties. You may visit his website by going to: