Note: We are in the process of updating this page and revising these resources with changes from the 85th Legislative Session.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
*CAVEAT: 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.
Please click here and take a survey on solutions such as Safe Harbor Policies, Walk-In Dockets, and Hardship Dockets.
Bills of Interest Related to Fines, Fees, Costs, & Indigence from the 85th Legislative Session:
H.B. 3167 Program for Improvement of Collection of Court Costs, Fees, and Fines
S.B. 413 Classification of Certain Court Costs as Uncollectible in Collin County
S.B. 1911 Self-help Resources on the Internet Website of a State Court and in the Office of the Court Clerk
S.B. 2053 Distribution of the Consolidated Court Cost
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
TMCEC Video Series
The following six new videos will open through our Online Learning Center (OLC). Please login or you may choose to view as a guest.
The TMCEC 2016 Forms Book
The Forms Book includes a number of forms to help judges and court personnel work with indigent persons. Click on the links below to access each form or visit the Forms Book page on our website.
The TMCEC Bench Book includes a relevant checklist:
The following publications also address indigence issues:
Relevant Past Course Materials
TMCEC Webinars address related issues and are recommended. These may be accessed on the TMCEC Online Learning Center (OLC).
The TMCEC journal, has also covered related issues in the following articles:
The National Center for State Courts
Offers reading materials on issues related to indigence on its website.
Collection Improvement Program (CIP)
On August 19, 2016, the Texas Judicial Council approved amendments to the rules that govern the implementation and operation of programs operated by counties and municipalities to improve the collection of court costs, fees, and fines (Title 1, Chapter 175, Texas Administrative Code). The primary goal of the amendments is to provide procedures that will help defendants comply with court ordered costs, fines and fees without imposing undue hardship on defendants and their dependents.
The amended rules go into effect on January 1, 2017. Additional information and resources on the implementation of the rules are available on the CIP Rules page. For more information about these changes, contact your CIP Technical Support Regional Collections Specialist.
In the News:
Hon. Edward Spillane, Presiding Judge, City of College Station wrote two articles.
April 8, 2016 - Washington Post on indigence, sentencing, & commitments (title was crafted by the publication)
September 16, 2016 - myStatesman, the online version of the Austin American Statesman on Safe Havens.
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 (November 2016)
No Exit, Texas, Modern-Day Debtors' Prisons and the Poverty Trap
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.