By Ed Spillane, Municipal Court Judge
Since the City of College Station began our warrant amnesty/warrant roundup program in 2007, we’ve cleared more than 6,000 warrants valued at over $2 million. The twice-yearly amnesty period has proven to be a win for defendants and our court because it’s provided a path for people to pay outstanding warrants and avoid jail.
The first warrant amnesty period of 2020 for the City of College Station and Brazos County starts Monday and runs through Feb. 28. Last fall, we cleared 100 warrants valued at almost $38,000.
If you have an outstanding warrant, you can avoid paying a $50 per case warrant fee if you pay the fine in full. During the warrant roundup Feb. 29-March 8, city marshals, police officers, reserve police officers, and constables will arrest those who haven’t paid their fines.
If you have an unpaid outstanding warrant, there’s a good chance you’ll be arrested.
Many cities do the roundup without offering amnesty, but we think the amnesty period is essential because you can make restitution, save a little money, and avoid jail time.
We’ve been a leader in encouraging other courts to participate, and now there is a statewide round-up in March. Our court has even been recognized by The Baltimore Sun as a national leader due to our amnesty program.
Do you have an outstanding warrant?
If the College Station Police Department issued your citation, you can check your warrant’s status at cstx.gov/warrants. You may also call the College Station Municipal Court at 979-764-3683.
No partial payment schedules will be allowed if you want to avoid the $50 fee. The City of College Station accepts cash, cashier’s check, credit cards, money orders, and personal checks. You may also pay your outstanding warrant through our online citation payment system.
If you have an outstanding warrant, I strongly encourage you to take care of it today. It’s a much better option than going to jail.
Ed Spillane is president of the Texas Municipal Courts Association and has been the presiding judge of College Station’s Municipal Court since 2002. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1985 and earned his Doctor of Law degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1992.
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Editor’s Note: This op-ed first appeared in Sunday’s Washington Post. As of Monday afternoon, it had received more than 200,000 clicks on the Post’s website.
By Ed Spillane, Presiding Judge, College Station Municipal Court
Melissa J. showed up in my court last year with four kids in tow. Her children quietly watched from a nearby table while I spoke with her. The charges against her — driving with an invalid license, driving without insurance, not wearing a seat belt, failure to use a child safety seat properly and four failures to appear — were nothing unusual for municipal court. Nor were her fines of several thousand dollars.
But for Melissa, who had a low-paying job and a husband in prison, and who looked like she hadn’t slept in days, that number might as well have been several million.
As a municipal judge in College Station, I see 10 to 12 defendants each day who were arrested on fine-only charges: things like public intoxication, shoplifting, disorderly conduct and traffic offenses. Many of these people, like Melissa, have no money to pay their fines, let alone hire a lawyer.
What to do with these cases?
By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director
College Station Municipal Court Judge Ed Spillane doesn’t want you to go to jail. If you run afoul of the law, he just wants you to come to court so the best-case scenario can be worked out.
In this edition of the podcast, Judge Spillane talks about why he offers a warrant amnesty period. He also describes the toughest cases he sees, some of the biggest misconceptions about the court, and his many experiences with “helicopter parents.”
As a municipal court judge, I see many young defendants who are in court for the first time. My job is to make sure these juveniles don’t appear again in my court, or any other. Starting next week, recent legislative changes will affect the type of cases we see.
Class C Offenses
Citations can no longer be issued for Class C offenses (other than traffic) that occur on school property and involve defendants between 10 and 16 years old. The most common tickets in any school are for class disruption, disorderly conduct or inappropriate language. A witness with knowledge must now sign an affidavit, and a complaint approved by the prosecutor must be filed in court before the police can file charges.
Warrant Amnesty runs Oct. 15-26
As a judge, I see a number of people after they’ve been arrested and are in jail on an outstanding warrant. Often, they are very happy to see me since they associate me with releasing them from jail. I’ll ask them why they didn’t come to College Station Municipal Court in the first place and the response I hear so many times is either:
- “I didn’t think ignoring a ticket could get you arrested,” or
- “I was saving up money and, until I had the money to pay the fine, I wasn’t going to court to make my plea.”
Most Class-C misdemeanors are handled through citizens receiving a ticket rather than being arrested. These include offenses like a minor in possession of alcohol, disorderly conduct due to noise, assault, theft under fifty dollars, and most traffic offenses and city ordinance violations — all criminal offenses in Texas. When you sign the ticket promising to appear, that signature acts as your promise to appear in court, versus being arrested and posting a bond guaranteeing your appearance.