This webpage contains resources to help courts prepare local forms and handouts that will help defendants understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as the court’s procedures. This is a work in progress. We hope that courts will submit copies of their materials on these issues by emailing them to email@example.com. We will then post them on the webpage for other courts to review and adapt for local use. Note: This is in addition to the TMCEC webpage called “Ferguson” which tracks the issues related to fines, fees, and jail practices involving other courts, media coverage, and provides links to webinars and articles of interest. This page also includes tools for use by judges and clerks in processing these cases.
The following documents are intended to serve as only as examples and are published with the intention that TMCEC is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice. All users must be responsible for their own legal drafting. Legal drafting should be accompanied by legal advice and direction from the city attorney.
TMCEC and its employees do not warrant, either expressly or implicitly, that the documents below are legally correct or that the information therein has not been subject to change, amendment, reversal, or revision.
NEW! Please click here and take a survey on solutions such as Safe Harbor Policies, Walk-In Dockets, and Hardship Dockets.
In the News: Hon. Edward Spillane, Presiding Judge, City of College Station wrote two articles, one on April 8, 2016 published in the Washington Post on indigence, sentencing, and commitments (Judge Spillane did not write the title, which was crafted by the publication.), and one on September 16, 2016 published in myStatesman, the online version of the Austin American Statesman on Safe Havens.
Check Your Practice:
Do your forms and webpages offer information on the options for persons who are indigent? Below is some exemplary language from a mid-sized court in Texas. This is included in Rules of Court on the court’s website.
Indigence. If a defendant is indigent or otherwise too poor to pay either the appeal bond or the transcript, she\he may file an Affidavit of Indigency with the court and a Motion to Waive Costs within the ten (10) day period to file an appeal bond. A hearing on the motion to waive costs shall then be scheduled by the court.
Inability to Pay Fine. If a defendant does not appeal the court's decision, but is unable to pay the fine when due, the defendant must appear at the clerk's office and request their case be set on a show cause docket. If the defendant qualifies, the court may allow the defendant to pay the fine in installments or discharge the fine by performing community service. If community service creates an undue hardship, the judge may enter a finding of indigence and waive fines and fees.
From Our Courts: Forms, Handouts & Outreach
Additional Resources Available:
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Indigence Bench Card (TMCEC)
The TMCEC 2016 Forms Book has a number of forms to help judges and court personnel work with indigent persons. Below are the form names & pages in the Forms Book.
The TMCEC Bench Book also contains a relevant checklist:
The following also contain detailed descriptions of dealing with indigence issues:
In addition, the following TMCEC webinars address related issues and are recommended. These may be accessed on the TMCEC Online Learning Center (OLC) (http://online.tmcec.com/):
The Recorder, the TMCEC journal, has also covered related issues in the following articles:
The National Center for State Courts also offers reading materials on issues related to indigence on its website. http://www.ncsc.org/Topics/Financial/Fines-Costs-and-Fees/Resource-Guide.aspx.
The Texas Judicial Council and Office of Court Administration (OCA) is in the process of reviewing the rules related to its Collection Improvement Program (CIP). http://www.sos.texas.gov/texreg/pdf/backview/0325/0325prop.pdf. The proposed amendments provide local collections programs greater flexibility in establishing payment plans and codifies the CIP's policy that the CIP’s components do not apply to defendants who have been determined to be indigent.
If you have other suggestions, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward them on to OCA.
Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), 2015-2016 Policy Paper, The End of Debtors' Prisons: Effective Court Policies for Successful Compliance with Legal Financial Obligations
ACLU of Texas Report: No Exit, Texas, Modern-Day Debtors' Prisons and the Poverty Trap (November 2016)
Materials from Texas Municipal Courts:
Please submit your forms and handouts to email@example.com and they will be placed here for review by other courts.
Steps Leading up to Commitment on a Capias Pro Fine
Article 45.046 of the Code of Criminal Procedure
*Prior to ordering a defendant confined to jail (commitment order), Article 45.046 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires a hearing and a written determination that the defendant either (1) is not indigent and has failed to make a good faith effort to discharge the fine and costs; or (2) the defendant is indigent and (a) has failed to make a good faith effort to discharge the fines and costs under Article 45.049 (community service) and (b) could have discharged the fines and costs under Article 45.049 without experiencing any undue hardship.