SB 1913

85(R) - 2017
Senate Criminal Justice
House Criminal Jurisprudence
Senate Criminal Justice
House Criminal Jurisprudence
Criminal Procedure

Vote Recommendation

  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Positive
  • Positive


Judith Zaffirini


Senfronia Thompson

Bill Caption

Relating to the administrative, civil, and criminal consequences, including fines, fees, and costs, imposed on persons arrested for, charged with, or convicted of certain criminal offenses.

Fiscal Notes

The bill would have a negative, but indeterminate, fiscal impact to the state due to anticipated revenue decreases resulting from an unknown number of defendants that would be determined to be indigent or unable to pay receiving a waiver or discharge from fines, fees, and court costs. In addition, the bill would take effect only if a specific appropriation for the implementation is provided.

Bill Analysis

This bill would modify various parts of the code pertaining to individuals who are economically unable to pay various fees, fines and court costs. If passed, citations issued for non-arrestable offenses would be updated to include information regarding alternatives to the full payment if the individual is convicted and unable to pay the amount.

This bill would also require courts that impose fines or other costs to make a written determination that the defendant has sufficient resources to pay all or part of the fine. The court must consider their status as a full-time student, their poverty level, and whether they receive financial assistance from any level of government.

This bill would also prevent courts from issuing a capias pro fine without first holding a hearing on the defendant’s ability to satisfy the judgement. This bill adds some guideline for how the courts may determine if they can issue a capias pro fine. This bill also specifies that a court would be required to recall a capias pro fine if the defendant voluntarily appears to resolve the amount owed.

This bill would modify the portion of the code related to a warrant for arrest. Before issuing an arrest warrant for a defendant’s failure to appear the judge must provide certain information either by mail or phone. The information would include the date and time of the ordered appearance, the name and address of the court, information regarding alternatives to the full payment if they are unable to pay, and an explanation of the consequences if a defendant fails to appear. A defendant would have the right to request an alternative date or time to appear. In addition, a justice to judge shall recall an arrest warrant before it is executed if the defendant voluntarily appears and makes a good faith effort to resolve the arrest warrant.

This bill would also increase the options for which to perform community service for certain individuals who are unable to pay a fine or costs. If this bill passes, a judge may determine that the defendant may fulfill the terms of their community service by attending a work and job skills training, or by working with a participating religious organizations, educational institutions, or neighborhood associations. In addition, this bill would increase the rate at which a fine is discharged through either manual labor in a confinement setting or community service in satisfaction of fine or costs, or community service in satisfaction of fine.

Current law allows the denial of registration of a vehicle if the individual owes the county a fine, fee, or tax that is past due. If this bill passes, the information that is provided to make the determination that the individual owes the county money expires after two years and may not be used to refuse registration after that date. If an individual has deemed as economically unable to pay by a court they may not be refused the opportunity to register their vehicle or to attain a driver’s license.

Vote Recommendation Notes

We support efforts to find alternatives to jail for indigent defendants who fail to pay their fines or court costs. While it may be reasonable to withhold someone’s privilege of attaining a driver’s license in some situations, it is not the proper role of government to further penalize individuals who already do not have the means to pay. This bill upholds our commitment to individual liberty and limited government, therefore we support it. 

Organizations Supporting

American Civil Liberties Union of Texas
Texas Appleseed
Texas Public Policy Foundation