TYLER, Texas — The City of Tyler Municipal Court handles Class “C” misdemeanors like traffic offenses or city code violations. While the offenses are not jailable in most cases, many people do not know that the court offers different options besides just paying tickets.
“We're just not here to collect monetary or to collect money, but we're here to help,” court administrator Nicole Johnson said. “We’ve taken the measures of just doing more education, more presentations, letting people know what the court does and how we function.”
After receiving a ticket, someone has 20 days to address an issue like not being able to pay with the court’s judge Amy McCullough.
“She asked multiple questions about people’s situations, why they hadn't been able to meet their requirements and their tickets,” Tyler resident Rachel Baker said. “She gave me the option of attending the financial class to pay part of my ticket.”
Financial management classes are one of the options McCullough offers for those that cannot afford to pay the full ticket.
“It’s basically a seminar that we offer every other month on a Saturday morning,” McCullough explained. “It's a four-hour program, and we partner with Roseman Wealth Advisors.
The class helps people to establish a budget, learn how to manage their money on a daily basis, determine ways to pay off debt and then learn how to save for the future.
Baker says the class helped her start planning for her retirement.
“Between the first time I came to class, and the second time I came to class, we had saved about $1,500,” Baker explained. “I'm glad at the end of the day that I did not pay my ticket, and I had to come because I don't think I would be as financially stable today as I would have if we didn't get this opportunity.”
Other options include a regular payment plan or one specifically for students, community service or to have the ticket deferred.
“Which is sort of like probation to keep the ticket off of their record,” the judge said.
Typically, municipal courts only offer community service to those who cannot afford to pay the ticket, but the Tyler court considers others as well.
“We try to offer that option regularly to people who perhaps work part time and have the flexibility to do the community service,” McCullough explained. “They get $12.50 an hour credit for that community service towards discharging their judgment.”
Johnson says when deciding where a person should do community service, there are several factors considered like a person’s transportation.
“We're looking at not only just the City of Tyler agencies and local agencies, but defendants are now able to do community service, if they live out of town in the city that they maybe live in,” Johnson said.
The Municipal Court is not just working to help people with their tickets, but is trying to educate students on how the court process works.
“We've already been to the three colleges in town, and we hope to expand it to the high schools and the junior highs,” McCullough said.
The City of Tyler Municipal Court also hears criminal juvenile matters, serves as the truancy court for Tyler Independent School District and holds driver license hearings for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
McCullough says the court is working on bringing back its Teen Court program, where teenagers issued tickets will go before a jury of their peers for judgement.