TYLER, Texas — The Tyler Municipal Court wanted to help people be compliant with the law without worrying about financial burdens as the COVID-19 pandemic continued. The court came up with the "COVID-19 special" to reduce the cost of certain fines and fees and started the program in September.
Since then, presiding Judge Amy McCullough's compliance has been up and costs are down.
"I've been able to reduce some fines or some costs as much as $500, 850, even $1,000 for some defendants, depending upon how many cases they have open in a court," McCullough said. "It has been it has been a really productive plan."
Fines like failure to appear and violating a promise to appear which are typically a few hundred dollars have been cut in half. Warrant fees are also being reduced.
"A failure to appear is going to be reduced down from $371 to $181," she explained. "If people have warrant fees on their cases, outstanding warrant fees, we're going to take $50 off of each case for those warrant fees."
In order to qualify for a reduced price, people will need to speak with Judge McCullough or a clerk to discuss their financial situation, as well as plead guilty or enter no contest for their charges.
McCullough says she knows this can be nerve-wracking, but her goal is to help find the right option to help people.
"I will always offer them a payment plan and often times we offer community service," she said. "They're [then] closer to being in compliance with the law and getting their driver's licenses."
The program has not only helped people but the court as well with clearing up warrants dating back to the 90s.
"We've actually seen about a 14% increase in clearance of warrants," McCullough said.
The COVID-19 special ends Dec. 31, but the court plans to reevaluate the situation with the pandemic, to then decide whether to implement "new, more creative programs" for 2021.
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