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New law offers Texans with low-income alternative solutions for traffic violations

TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

Thousands of Texans who fail to pay their traffic violations are getting a break.

A new state law is offering an alternative solution to Texans with low-income. Every year thousands of Texans are jailed because they can't pay traffic tickets.

“There was some valid reason for them not to be able to pay,” said Valita Waits, a former alternate municipal judge in Tyler. “Then there is an arrest warrant that adds to the fine and it just keeps building. Sometimes it’s like they are on a treadmill.”

The new law took effect Sept. 1 and it allows courts to ask defendants if their income prevents them from paying traffic tickets, fines for other low-level and fine-only offenses or court costs.

This gives judges more flexibility in setting lower fines or alternatives to payment, like community service.
             
“If they couldn’t pay they would go to jail, and then the kids would get picked up by CPS, and then that is a whole other issue,” said Waits.

According to Texas Fair Defense Project in 2015, almost 3 million warrants were issued in cases where the punishment was originally just a fine.

They also report more than 200,000 Texans can't renew their licenses, and approximately 400,000 have holds on vehicle registrations due to unpaid fines.

Many state officials who opposed the law say this would not hold people accountable. Waits disagrees and believes more good than bad will come from it.

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